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The government is exploring more legislation for owners of small flocks of birds after confirming that five of the 13 confirmed cases of Avian Influenza between December 2016 to June 2017 were in flocks owned by smallholders.

Owners of small flocks feature significantly in the government report that shares lessons learnt and recommendations made following the outbreak.

Currently keepers of fewer than 50 birds do not have to provide details by signing up to the GB Poultry Register while all poultry keepers of 50 or more birds are legally required to. Five of the 13 infected premises in this outbreak were small flocks and three of these were not registered. Consequently the government will review the registration requirements of the GB Poultry Register and analyse how disease control would be improved if smaller flocks were required to register.

“A lack of awareness of, or unwillingness or inability to comply with Avian Influenza control measures amongst non-commercial (hobby) flock keepers” is cited as a significant factor in the spread of the disease. A lack of redress on those who did not comply with the measures and little understanding of the impact that disease in their flock could have on other keepers has resulted in the government pledging to communicate with and educate to improve understanding of the risks and biosecurity, as well as form a strategy for dealing with non-compliance.

It was the first outbreak in 10 years in which disease was not limited to one place and its associated zones. Investigations have determined that the disease was most likely introduced to domesticated flocks in the UK through direct or indirect contact with wild bird populations.

In its report, the government acknowledged its lack of detailed knowledge of the game bird industry, including the behaviour of game birds in the wild, and has recommended that the relevant departments improve knowledge and liaise with industry specific bodies.