Classifying animal diseases
Legally, an animal disease is a disease whereby the normal functions of any organ or the body of an animal is impaired or disturbed by any protozoon, bacterium, virus, fungus, parasite, other organism or agent.
More importantly however, is how animal diseases are classified. Animal diseases in terms of the Act are either classified as controlled or as notifiable animal diseases.
The difference between a controlled and a notifiable animal disease is that the Minister of Agriculture has prescribed various generic and specific control measures to prevent the spreading of a controlled animal disease.
The specific control measures that relate to a controlled animal disease are set out in the Regulations to the Act.
Any controlled animal disease as well as any notifiable animal disease must be reported to the State Veterinarian.
Foot and mouth disease, Brucellosis, Anthrax, African Horse Sickness, Tuberculosis and Rabies are examples of controlled animal diseases.
Blue Tongue, Lumpy Skin Disease and Bovine Malignant Catarrhal Fever (“snotsiekte”) are examples of notifiable animal diseases.
Reporting animal diseases
The farm owner or farm manager must take all reasonable steps to prevent the spreading of an animal disease.
In terms of Section 11(1)(b) of the Act, read together with Regulation 12 and Regulation 12A, any farm owner or farm manager shall verbally report to the State Veterinarian when he/she knows or reasonably suspects that an animal has been infected with a controlled or a notifiable animal disease.
The person who verbally reports the disease must as soon as possible thereafter confirm in writing who they are, what their address is, what symptoms they observed, where the animal currently is and whether the animal has been in contact with any other animals.
Farm owners or farm managers who don’t report a controlled or a notifiable animal disease are guilty of an infringement in terms of the Act. Such an infringement is punishable with a fine of R8 000 (eight thousand Rand) or imprisonment of 2 (two) years or both. Repeat offenders will be punished more harshly.
The process after reporting an animal disease
The Director of the Directorate of Animal Health (“the director”) will take the necessary action to remedy the situation and has wide powers in terms of the Act.
The Director can give notice that he/she will assume control of a farm from a specified date, for a specified period. The Director may after giving such notice, enter upon and occupy the farm, establish a camp, remove any vegetation and erect fences and gates.
Alternatively, the Director can, without giving prior notice, access a farm and search for an infected animal and/ or seize any infected animal and order that the animal be treated, removed or slaughtered.
Compensation for slaughtered animals
Farmers can claim compensation for animals, should the Director order the slaughter of animals.
In the matter of Minister of Agriculture v Bluelilliesbush Dairy Farming (Pty) Ltd the Supreme Court of Appeal awarded a claim of over R10 000 000 (ten million Rand) when 7 000 (seven thousand) cattle were slaughtered in the Eastern Cape to prevent the spread of tuberculosis.
The claim was based on Section 19 of the Act, read together with Regulation 30. In terms of the Act, farmers were entitled to 80% (eighty percent) of the fair market value of an animal when an infected animal was slaughtered. When an uninfected animal was slaughtered to prevent the spreading of a disease, farmers were entitled to 100% (one hundred percent) of the fair market value of the animal.
Regulation 30 was however amended on 22 May 2009 after judgment was given. In terms of the amended regulation the Director will henceforth determine the “applicable compensation” payable, should he/she order the slaughter of animals.
Prosecution for offences
Farm owners and farm managers would be wise to brush up on the Act and its Regulations.
In terms of Section 33(1)(d) of the Act, whenever a farm owner or farm manager is prosecuted for any offence in terms of the Act, it is presumed that he/she had the necessary knowledge, until proven otherwise. The persons prosecuted will also need to prove that they could not have gained the necessary knowledge by the exercise of reasonable diligence and vigilance.
Furthermore, in terms of Section 34 of the Act, farm owners and farm managers can be held vicariously liable for any offence in terms of the Act for anything their employees or even a member of their household did or omitted to do.
This is not a position in which any farm owner or farm manager would want to find themselves and we urge you to consult an attorney should the need arise.
This article is intended for information purposes only and is a brief exposition of the abovementioned legal position. Mention is not necessarily made of all the finer nuances as set out in the legislation. This article should under no circumstances be construed as formal legal advice. Contact VDT Attorneys should you have any queries in this regard.
© VDT Attorneys