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Brussels, 11 January 2007

New rules for captive bird imports to protect animal health in the EU and improve the welfare of imported birds

A draft Regulation laying down strict conditions for the import of live captive birds, such as parrots and macaws, was backed unanimously by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health today. The new rules are necessary to protect animal health in the EU, and follow the recommendations laid down in the Opinion on the import of such birds, issued by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in October last year. The Regulation will also improve the animal welfare of imported birds. Under the Regulation agreed today, only specific countries or regions which have already been approved to export live commercial poultry will be allowed to export captive birds to the EU. These approved countries have demonstrated high standards of animal health and the ability to cope with international animal health concerns. Stringent conditions will have to be met both before and after the birds are imported into the EU, and Member States will be required to provide more detailed information on such imports. Birds caught in the wild will not be allowed to be imported into the EU. The new rules will not apply to certain types of birds, including commercial poultry and pet birds accompanying their owners, as these are already covered by separate EU legislation.

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said, “I am very glad that Member States could agree to these tighter rules for captive bird imports. Such measures are crucial to maintaining the highest possible level of animal health protection in the EU. The devastation that the H5N1 avian influenza virus has caused globally serves as a reminder that we can take no chances in this area. In addition, I welcome the fact that the animal health measures set out in this new Regulation will also be a positive step forward for the animal welfare of imported birds. “

EU rules for imported birds (other than poultry) are currently set out in Decision 2000/666/EC. However, in 2005, as part of the preventive measures against highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza, the Commission banned all imports of captive birds from third countries (see MEX/06/1204). In October 2006, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued an Opinion on the animal health and welfare risks associated with the import of captive birds. This identified several tools and options to reduce the threats that imports of birds other than poultry could pose to animal health in the EU. The Commission took this Opinion into account when drawing up today’s Regulation, while also drawing on experience gained from recent serious animal disease outbreaks.

More limited access

Under the new legislation, the list of countries approved to export live captive birds to the EU will be limited to countries already approved to export live poultry to the EU . Captive birds will only be imported from countries already approved to export live poultry to the EU, i.e. those with proven high standards of animal health. Certain third countries which are geographically close to the EU and apply equivalent animal health conditions will be exempt from the provisions of the new Regulation.

Stricter criteria

Given the high risk of infection from wild birds, only birds bred in captivity and in approved breeding establishments will be allowed to enter the EU. Controls in the exporting country will have to prove the absence of avian influenza and Newcastle disease, and birds destined for the EU may not be vaccinated against avian flu. All imported birds will have to be individually identifiable through a leg-ring or microchip.

Tighter quarantine conditions

A minimum 30 day quarantine period in an officially approved centre will be required for all imported captive birds. Tighter controls will apply with regard to the movement of the birds from the border inspection post to the quarantine facility. The imported birds will only be released from quarantine following a veterinary inspection, and the Regulation lays down detailed provisions in case disease should be identified in the quarantine facility.

Improved data collection

In its Opinion on captive birds, EFSA noted the lack of data relating to the import of such birds. The Regulation voted today therefore requires Members States to provide the Commission with regular information on the import of captive birds and their quarantine conditions. The Commission will draw up a list of the approved quarantine facilities and centres in each Member State, and annex the list to the Regulation.

Animal welfare aspects

According to the Opinion, several measures now taken on account of animal health concerns will also have a beneficial effect on the welfare of imported birds. Furthermore, because of the more strict requirements and the fact that no wild birds can be imported any more, it will limit the number of imported birds thereby stimulating local breeding in the EU.

Next steps

The Regulation agreed by Member States today will now be adopted by the Commission and will be published in the Official Journal in the coming weeks. It will enter into force 3 days after this date and will start to apply from 1 July 2007.

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