Animal Aid

From Jungle to Jumble : Evidence presented

To follow is a detailed description of how the 'licence' conditions were violated. The accompanying dvd gives selected examples of each contravention but does not feature all examples. Testimonials from investigators will further reinforce our claims should any of these issues proceed to court.

Whilst this report pertains mainly to the Pet Animals Act 1951, other evidence has been submitted to the police, Inland Revenue and the local Trading Standards office.

Contraventions to Pet Animal Act 1951

Section 1 (3) of the Pet Animals Act, with regard to whether a licence should be granted states that the local authority must:

"have regard for the need for securing -
a) that animals will at all times be kept in accommodation suitable as respects size, temperature, lighting,
ventilation and cleanliness;
b) that animals will be adequately supplied with suitable food and drink and (so far as necessary) visited at
suitable intervals;
d) that all reasonable precautions will be taken to prevent the spread among animals of infectious diseases;
e) that appropriate steps will be taken in case of fire or other emergency;

National Cage & Aviary Birds Exhibition, December 2003.

It is often difficult to secure these conditions even in a 'conventional' pet shop. As revealed below, and substantiated by visual evidence, none of the above conditions were met at the National Cage & Aviary Birds Exhibition 2003.

a) that animals will at all times be kept in accommodation suitable as respects size, temperature, lighting, ventilation and cleanliness;

Filmed evidence shows that birds were routinely kept in unsuitable cages as regards size. To confine a bird in a cage not large enough to allow the birds to stretch their wings also contravenes the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 which states that:

'it is illegal to keep any bird, excluding poultry, in a cage or other receptacle which is not of sufficient size to permit the bird to stretch its wings freely in all directions'.

Virtually all stalls that had larger parrots on sale contravened the Wildlife & Countryside Act. These stalls include:

Pegasus Birds
Safari Select
Sign of the Owl Birds
Phoenix Birds
B&T Parrots and Pet Supplies
Mill Lane Aviaries
North Cornwall Aviaries
Sluis UK
D&G Birds
Winterton Aviaries
Vogelpuk Belgium

Also, many birds such as finches and budgerigars were kept in severely overcrowded cages that did not afford enough space for each bird to perch.

National Cage & Aviary Birds Exhibition, December 2003.

Dirty cages were also noted. On Sun 7th Dec the newspaper on the floor of some of the cages on the T Murray Birds stand appeared not to have been changed from the previous day. Some birds appeared dirty as a result.

b) that animals will be adequately supplied with suitable food and drink and (so far as necessary) visited at suitable intervals;

Some stalls such as P J Dixon and D&G Birds had cages in which food was scattered on the floor of the cage rather than in food bowls. This meant that food was quickly covered in faeces, which denies the above condition.

On Saturday, some cages were noted with no water;

Squires Bird Products - broadwing
white eye cage
Ost Belgium - no water in 7 cages when checked on 2 occasions during Saturday. Water was available when checked at end of day.

d) that all reasonable precautions will be take to prevent the spread among animals of infectious diseases;

The Council received expert advice prior to the event which indicated that the above legal requirement was impossible to ensure. Regardless of expert opinion, common sense would dictate that housing thousands of stressed, immune-deficient birds all together in the same airspace for 2 to 3 days would provide ample opportunity for the spread of infection.

Also, the condition was not enforceable given the unavailability of both sufficient numbers of veterinary personnel and also the impracticable level of laboratory analysis that would be required to 'screen' birds prior to the event. Further, the important issue of 'latency' - where birds may discretely harbour pathogenic microorganisms - cannot be fully addressed through basic screening. In addition, stresses endemic to the NEC event are capable of precipitating and manifesting latent 'infection' and resulting in epidemics of threat to birds and to the public.

National Cage & Aviary Birds Exhibition, December 2003.

Although it is not difficult for a qualified person to identify signs of possible disease in (especially small numbers of) birds, it is impossible to certify birds as being healthy from remote, rather than clinical and laboratory microbiological, investigation. Given the substantial number of animals expected to be present at the event as well as the event's general organisational structure it is arguable that the organisers, traders and Solihull Council already knew that it was simply not possible to conduct essential health checks on birds or to reasonably monitor for potential epidemiological problems.

Also, the event was allowed to proceed amidst fears of a new outbreak of a suspected reovirus that fatally affected budgerigars and other closely related species. The Budgerigar Society website 25 November 2003, urged its members 'caution with the movement of birds at this time'.

'Birds First in Birdkeeping' purchased five birds from event (three parrots and two finches) on Saturday 6 December 2003. These were namely two Senegal parrots (Poicephalus senegalus) purchased from North Cornwall Aviaries and one black capped conure (Pyrrhura rupicola) and two green finches from Sign of the Own Birds. The birds were taken immediately for examination to a specialist avian veterinary surgeon at the Clockhouse Veterinary Hospital in Gloucestershire.

Although, outwardly the birds showed no signs of ill health, one of the Senegal parrots was found to have a very high white blood cell count. This indicated a severe infection, which had been present for a period of time in excess of one week. In the opinion the expert avian vet, the bird was suffering from an active infection of 'Chlamydophila psittaci' - more commonly known as psittacosis or parrot fever. This infection is not only potentially fatal to birds but is also a potentially fatal bird to human zoonotic infection. The expert vet commented that:

National Cage & Aviary Birds Exhibition, December 2003.

"...not only was this bird unfit to be offered for sale at this time, but more importantly its presence at the show not only endangered its own health, but also that of all other birds and all members of the public who attended the show. Humans older than 45 years and any who might have been pregnant would be at greater risk of suffering severe disease. Indeed it can be argued that unless the show organisers made all members of the public attending the show, aware of the zoonotic risks they would be exposed to by visiting the show that they would be legally responsible for any subsequent illness that any such visitor subsequently suffered.

"There is also potential concern about pathogens such as these being taken into an extensive public area such as the NEC, where effective elimination of pathogens from the air space following the show might well prove impossible, such that subsequent users of the facility might also be put at risk."

Animal Aid acted immediately in reporting this finding to the media and urged anyone who visited the event and was suffering mild or severe flu-like symptoms (typically within a few days to two weeks) to report immediately to their GP and explain that they had visited the wild bird market at the NEC. The BioVeterinary Group, specialists in exotic animal care and public health, recommended that all buyers of birds at the NEC market take birds to their vets immediately for a full check up and test for psittacosis and other infections, as the risk of infection to both birds and people must be taken very seriously.

e) that appropriate steps will be taken in case of fire or other emergency;

In the event of emergencies it would certainly not be possible to ensure the safe evacuation of most of the birds; they would be left in the hall to perish.

National Cage & Aviary Birds Exhibition, December 2003.

Click here for part 3 of the report, in which we outline conditions attached to the licence and the contraventions to those conditions.

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