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Chapter 8: Legislation

Legal powers
Notifiable diseases
Veterinary inspection
Drug control
Veterinary council
Veterinary public health

Animal health control and surveillance cannot be left solely to individual animal owners and producers. Animal health is also a national duty for public authorities. An appropriate legislative and regulatory apparatus should be formulated, adopted, implemented and enforced.

Although juridical texts vary, generally applicable forms can be designed such as zoosanitary legislation. These texts should be:

• relevant to the country's particular political, constitutional, economic and juridical system (i.e. common, civil or Islamic law) and harmonized with the existing judicial and institutional structure;

• adapted to the country's technical limitations and possibilities and responsive to the real needs of the country;

• easily usable and permanently adopted by the appropriate authorities. Legislative texts should be adopted by legislative powers, either as a law passed by parliament or as an edict/ordinance decreed by the head of state. Regulations that faithfully adhere to the principles of the applicable legislative texts and are easily modifiable should be promulgated by executive powers such as the head of state or ministers.

Although animal health control constitutes a "public service", it should be noted that it is necessarily implemented by both public institutions (national animal health services and their agents) and private persons (veterinarians on whom the law imposes duties to report and act rapidly). All animal health legislation and regulations, qualitatively, in terms of hygiene and health, and quantitatively, in terms of tariff and non-tariff interventions in production, should therefore be formulated with these different implementing and enforcing entities in mind.

Legal powers

Legislation on animal and public health should be drafted in a form that is clear and enforceable. It should include the legal powers to enable animal health service staff to carry out their duties effectively and specify the authorities responsible for enforcement of the legislation.

Animal health and public health legislation

An animal health act and a public health act should give the necessary powers to the animal health service to perform its duties and also state the responsibilities of livestock owners and others in observing the law. The acts should provide for the rapid introduction of new measures through subordinate legislation when new diseases or situations have to be controlled. The enforcement procedures and responsible authorities should be laid down.

Scope of inspection powers

The official animal health service in a developing country should have legal powers to exercise inspection over:

• animals, including domestic and wildlife, for purposes of animal health control;

• animal products;

• products destined for animal feeding; products destined for the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of animal diseases;

• anything capable of transmitting animal disease;

• related premises, equipment, facilities and means of transportation, as specified by pertinent laws, rules and regulations;

• related documents, as specified by pertinent laws, rules and regulations.

Some countries give their animal health services responsibilities under other legislation to implement official legislation and regulations to manage animal production, aquaculture, wildlife health, animal welfare, vaccine and biologicals production, laboratory animal medicine, etc.

In particular, the official animal health service in a developing country should have legal power to perform clinical examinations of any animal and testing or other examinations of products listed above subject to official inspection. Further, to the extent specified by and in accordance with pertinent laws, rules and regulations, the official animal health service should have the power, on a permanent or temporary basis, to exercise effective veterinary inspection to:

• apply official identifying marks to animals, products, containers, premises, equipment and means of transportation;

• issue or withdraw official certificates and licences;

• prohibit, limit, restrict or regulate the import, export and movement within the country of animals, animal products and other products subject to veterinary inspection, as well as feed, vaccines, biological infectious agents, pests and drugs;

• order and implement the isolation, examination and testing of animals;

• perform or order to have performed diagnostic tests, vaccination and prophylactic or therapeutic treatment of animals, processing of products and disinfection of premises, equipment, facilities and means of transportation;

• collect samples for the purpose of diagnosis, sanitary or quality standard control or animal health legal proceedings, and submit such samples for laboratory examination;

• confiscate animals and products or cause such confiscation to be effected;

• destroy animals and products or cause such destruction to be effected;

• register and supervise the management of specified establishments and persons exercising specified activities;

• confirm or cancel the approval of the operation of individual establishments and activities or individual persons and, where this approval has been withdrawn, prohibit or cause to be prohibited the operation of an establishment or the activity of a person;

• prohibit, limit, restrict or regulate the access of persons to specified premises or defined places;

• prohibit, limit, restrict or regulate the introduction to or removal from specified premises or defined places of animals, products and other objects;

• control for animal health purposes the artificial and natural reproduction of livestock and poultry, etc.;

• operate veterinary laboratories, quarantine stations and other official establishments under the direct responsibility and authority of veterinary officers.

Support by other administrations

For the exercise of their official functions and legal powers, the responsible veterinary officers and authorized auxiliary personnel should have, on a permanent basis, immediate and full support from law enforcement authorities, municipal and other local administrations and customs authorities.

Notifiable diseases


The term "notifiable disease" should only be applied to diseases subject to intensive official measures of prevention and control. This should include at least all the OIE List A diseases. Notifiable diseases trigger the following essential requirements:

• There should be effectively applied provisions to ensure that all cases of a notifiable disease come to the knowledge of the veterinary authorities, and the government should undertake to apply and enforce such provisions.

• Each occurrence of the notifiable disease should be followed by a sequence of official control actions and should be specified by relevant rules and regulations.

• The legal powers and provisions referred to in the next section, "List of notifiable diseases", should be fully applicable to each of the diseases designated as notifiable.

• There should be legal authority to compel owners to apply prescribed sanitary measures to their livestock, with appropriate provisions for incentives and punitive measures to ensure their cooperation. Such measures should be applied consistently, including payment of adequate indemnities in the case of compulsory slaughter.

Diseases subject to other forms of regulatory control should not be designated as "notifiable diseases", but referred to as "reportable diseases" or "officially controlled diseases".

List notifiable diseases

The "notifiable diseases" should be specified by national law or regulation. The "list of notifiable diseases" should form an integral part of national animal health legislation and should include:

• those diseases which the government concerned has undertaken to hold as notifiable by international commitment in the framework of multilateral or bilateral conventions and agreements, i.e. the OIE List A diseases;

• other diseases officially controlled in the same manner as may be provided for by relevant national rules and regulations, subject to the requirement that the government concerned undertakes to apply and enforce such control measures effectively and consistently.

Compulsory notification

There should be appropriate and effective enforcement provisions to ensure that every reasonable suspected case of a notifiable disease is reported by the general public to the official animal health service without delay. In principle, every person having in possession or attendance an animal or carcass which that person suspects, or ought to suspect, of being affected with a notifiable disease should be obligated to give notice of such fact to the official enforcement authority or animal health service. In particular, effective measures should be applied to ensure that this compulsory reporting is complied with by veterinarians, livestock owners and attendants, butchers, knockers, and other persons who, by profession, trade or regular occupation, are directly concerned with animals or carcasses. To that end, relevant laws and regulations should provide that a notifiable disease is a priori suspected in every case of serious illness or death in an animal, or alteration in a carcass, unless the symptoms can reasonably be attributed to another disease that is not notifiable.


There should be effectively applied rules and regulations governing a sequence of actions to be implemented regularly and consistently whenever a veterinary officer finds or suspects an animal or carcass is affected with one of the notifiable diseases. These measures should be applicable to each of the notifiable diseases concerned.

Veterinary inspection

Scope and purpose

Veterinary inspection should include ascertaining the facts and application of relevant measures and should be exercised inside the country and at the frontier through effective measures designed to:

• prevent the introduction of notifiable diseases from abroad, prevent the spread of such diseases inside the country, ensure that every case of any such disease is immediately brought to the attention of the enforcement and veterinary authorities and ensure that the measures of sanitary action, as provided for by relevant rules and regulations, are immediately applied in every such case;

• ensure the implementation of control and eradication programmes;

• ensure compliance with official standards of health and quality for the purposes of internal and external trade.

These measures should be governed by appropriate rules and regulations designed to be consistent with the technical and sanitary purposes intended and with the means of implementation available. These measures should be implemented and enforced consistently and regularly. With regard to external trade, such measures should not be applied in a manner that may result in an arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where the same conditions prevail or between international and internal trade.

Conditions of inspection

The veterinary officers and auxiliary personnel should have access to all places or premises where it may be necessary to carry out an official veterinary inspection. They should be bound by professional confidentiality. The owners, managers and employees of the places visited should be obligated to facilitate the inspection and to give all assistance that may be reasonably requested for that purpose. In particular, the authorized officers and auxiliary staff should have the power to order livestock owners to assemble their livestock for inspection and to inspect any stock wherever such stock may be kept.

Drug control

There should be legal provisions to control the registration, manufacture, importation, distribution and use of veterinary drugs and biologicals. The control may be exercised as part of drugs control for both humans and animals or there may be separate legislation for human and animal drugs and biologicals.


All drugs and biologicals used in a country should be registered. This is usually done by a drugs control council (or commission) that may control all drugs or just those for animal use. If the council registers and controls drugs for both human and animal use, there should be a veterinary subcommittee responsible for the registration of veterinary drugs.

Before registering a drug, the registration authority should examine the protocols supplied by the manufacturers to back up any claims about the efficacy, quality and safety of the drug. In registering a drug for use, the registration authority will set out the conditions for its distribution and use, e.g. to be used by veterinarians only, prescription only, sold through pharmacies, etc. It is often useful to be aware if the drug has already been registered in a country with a reliable registration system, as a guide to the consideration.

Control of manufacture, importation and distribution

Only drugs and biologicals that have been registered should be allowed to be imported or manufactured.

Compliance with the conditions specified in the registration should be monitored by an inspectorate, which may include animal health service staff.

Quality control

There should be powers to allow for the taking of samples of drugs and to check their quality. This checking is expensive and the quality control testing may be done on a random basis. Manufacturers normally have their own in-house quality control system.

Stock feed

There should be legislation to govern the manufacture and sale of stock feeds. This legislation should require: the registration of feed manufacturers; that the feed contains, within specified limits, the ingredients that the manufacturer claims; and labelling (to include a list of the main constituents).

Veterinary council

Every country should have a statutory body independent of the official veterinary service but recognized by the government to maintain a register of veterinarians, to prepare ethical guidance for the profession and to oversee professional conduct.

The council should have the power to:

• establish the standards of competence for registration as a veterinarian;
• register only those veterinarians who meet these standards of competence;
• have a code of conduct and ensure that members behave in an ethical and professional manner;
• discipline members and, if necessary, remove them from the register.

Veterinary public health

Much of the legislation required to control zoonoses, in relation to the source of infection in animals, will have been covered in the Animal Health Act.

The Public Health Act should provide for the legislation necessary for licensing and setting standards for premises, slaughterhouses, meat processing plants, cold stores, etc., giving powers for inspection and subsequent action, if necessary, to ensure the hygienic production and safety of food of animal origin intended for human consumption.

In relation to meat and meat products it should include:

• abattoir design and construction;
• quality of water supplies;
• safe disposal of effluent and waste products;
• hygienic handling of meat;
• detailed meat inspection procedures including ante-mortem and postmortem inspection;
• actions to be taken when disease conditions are encountered;
• sampling to be used to test for residues.

These procedures are detailed in the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius.

In countries in which the production and safety of such other foods as milk, fish and their products are also the responsibility of the Animal Health Service, parallel legislation should be enacted to cover standards of production, inspection and enforcement.


FAO. 1985. Recommended international code of practice for ante-mortem and post-mortem judgement of slaughter animals and meat. Codex Alimentarius, 1st ed., Vol. C. Rome, FAO.

OIE. 1986. International Animal Health Code. Paris, OIE.

OIE. 1987. International Animal Health Code. Supplement. Paris, OIE.

OIE. 1988. International Animal Health Code. Supplement. Paris, OIE.

OIE. 1989. International Animal Health Code. Supplement. Paris, OIE.

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