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Animal Diseases

If you are a cattle farmer, jokes about ‘foot and mouth’, or ‘mad cow’ are not funny. No different from the threat of African horse sickness to horse studs, these diseases are potentially devastating to herds.

The Animal Diseases Act 19841 aims to provide controls and measures to deal with animal 2 diseases and parasites, and to promote animal health in general. The Act falls under the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries but is effectively administered by the Directorate of Animal Health in that department.

The Director has wide ranging powers, whilst the Minister can make regulations on any issue necessary for the achievement of the purposes of the Act. As to be expected, incorporated in the Act are provisions which criminalise, generally, any failure to comply with any regulation; or a contravention of any condition imposed by the Director in respect of any permit, consent or authority, or of any directive issued or given by him or any other authorised officer, person or body.

The references which follow are specifically provided for in the Act.3

A. Permits and authorisation

  1. It is, conceivably,4 an offence to conduct, without a permit, any investigation, experiment or research with any vaccine, serum, toxin (etc.) which, wholly or partly, consists of or originates from an animal or parasite.5

  2. It is, also conceivably, an offence to contravene, or fail to comply with any condition of a permit to conduct such investigation (etc.).6

  3. No person may import into (or even convey in transit through the Republic) any animal7 without a permit. It is an offence to do otherwise, and it is also an offence to contravene the conditions of any permit.8

  4. If you are found in possession of any animal or thing, in respect of which a permit is required and cannot give a satisfactory explanation as to why you are in possession, it is an offence.9

  5. All permits, certificates, authorisations and other documents issued under the Act must:
    • be stored safely for the period of validity thereof; and10
    • be produced on request by the Director, or an authorised person or a customs officer.11
  6. Any person who obtains any permit, consent or authority by false representations commits a crime.12

  7. It is a crime to alter or forge any permit, consent, authority or any other document issued, given or granted under the Act.13

  8. If you use any altered or forged permit, consent, authority or other document in order to evade or circumvent any provision of the Act, it is an offence.14

  9. If you do anything for which a permit, consent, authority or any other document issued is required, without a permit, it is an offence.15

B. Importation, movement and quarantine

  1. To control movement, removal or transport, the Director can erect permanent or temporary fences, as well as gates, grids and other passageways in the fences. He may also build roads, bridges and culverts as may be necessary for the erection, maintenance or alteration of the fences. It is a criminal offence:
    • to remove, alter, or impair the efficacy of any such fence, gate, grid or passage without the written authority of the Director;16
    • to alter, obstruct or damage any such road, bridge, or culvert.17
  2. If you import any animal (or thing) at a place of entry into the Republic different from the one authorised in the permit, you commit an offence.18

  3. Similarly, it is an offence if you do not import the animal within the period specified by the Director in the permit.19

  4. Any person who:
    • damages, destroys, moves, removes, erases, alters or otherwise tampers with any beacon, mark or seal which has been installed or affixed;20
    • damages, destroys or otherwise tampers with anything seized, or any sample taken under the Act;21
    • in the case of an animal in custody or quarantine, injures it, or removes it from the control of the director, or destroys it,22

    commits an offence.

  5. When an animal is to be imported, it is detained at the place of entry for veterinarian control and other purposes. It is an offence to remove the animal from the place of detention without the Director’s written authority.23

  6. The Director can order that the animal24 be detained in quarantine, and in which case it shall be removed to the specified quarantine station. It is an offence to remove the animal (or any offspring it produces) without the written authority of the Director.25

C. Strays

  1. If an owner or manager of land, or an owner of animals, finds on the land or amongst his animals a stray, he must isolate it, report it to the Director, and detain it in isolation pending the Director’s decision. It is an offence to fail to do so.26

  2. The Director can order that the stray animal be removed to a place for testing, or be destroyed, or otherwise disposed of. It is an offence to fail to comply with any such order of the Director.27

  3. It is also an offence for anyone to remove the stray from such place of detention without the Director’s authorisation.28

D. The Director and his officers

  1. The Director may order any means of transport (‘conveyance’) to stop, in order to go on board (for purposes of inspection, etc.). It is an offence if you are directed to stop the transport and fail to do so.29

  2. It is also an offence to refuse to permit the Director to board or to take the transport under his control.30

  3. The Director can, moreover, require all reasonable assistance from the owner or manager of land, or the owner of the transport, or the owner of the animal, in order for him to carry out his functions in terms of the Act, such as search, investigation, erecting beacons, take samples, checking, counting, and so forth. It is an offence to refuse to render such assistance if required by the Director.31

  4. The Director may also require such a manager or owner to produce documents, registers and records and to furnish explanation for entries, deletions, and notes therein, and to furnish any other information. It is an offence to refuse or fail to comply with any such requirement of the Director.32

  5. It is an offence to disclose (except if required by law) any information which relates to the business or affairs of another person which was learnt during the performance of duties under the Act.33

  6. It is an offence to allow unauthorised access to any records or registers kept in terms of the Act.34

  7. Any person who:

    • obstructs or hinders the Director, an officer, an authorized person or any other person in the exercise of any power or the performance of any duty under the Act;35 or
    • damages, removes or otherwise tampers with any conveyance, appliance, instrument, tool, equipment, remedy or any other object belonging to, or under the supervision or custody of, the Director, an officer, an authorised person or any other person who is exercising or performing any duty in terms of the Act;36
    • in order to compel the Director, an officer, an authorised person or any other person to perform or to abstain from performing any duty under the Act (or because the Director, any officer, any authorised person or any such person has already performed or abstained from performing such duty) threatens the use of violence or force, or suggests the use of violence or force, upon any such person;37 or
    • refuses or fails to receive any order or other document served on him,38

    commits an offence.

E. Animal health and health schemes

The Minister may establish ‘schemes’ for the improvement of animal health, or simply just to combat disease. A wide range of various measures can be promulgated to achieve the purpose(s) of any particular scheme.

  1. Any owner or manager of land, on which there are animals, as well as the owner of any animals must:
    • take all reasonable steps to prevent their infection with any animal disease or parasite; and
    • take all reasonable steps to eradicate disease and parasites,

    and it is an offence not to meet these obligations.39

  2. If any animal is infected (or can reasonably be suspected of having become infected) with any animal disease or parasite, any such owner or manager must apply either the prescribed treatment or any other treatment deemed suitable and customary in the circumstances, and commits an offence if he fails to do so.40

  3. If you are an owner of animals for whom any provision of an animal health scheme is binding, should you contravene any such provision, or fails to comply therewith, it constitutes a criminal offence.41

  4. If you contravene any provision of a control measure, or fail to comply therewith, it is also an offence.42

  5. If an animal becomes infected with any controlled animal disease, it is an offence not to report the incidence immediately to the director.43
  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by way of Act 88 of 1996. Actually, the Act is to be repealed in its entirety. (Given its obscure provisions, this is not a bad thing.) However, the repealing Act, the Animal Health Act 2002, has still not come into operation. 

  2. For the purposes of this Act, ‘animal’ means any mammal, bird, fish, reptile or amphibian. ‘Animal diseases’ means a disease to which these creatures are susceptible and whereby their normal bodily functions are empowered. 

  3. Unfortunately, the statute suffers from drafting which makes some provisions difficult to interpret. Section 32(1) is a prime example. See reference 5. 

  4. Section 20(a) of the Act prohibits such research, etc. but does not criminalise it. Section 32(1) provides that it is an offence, if the conduct contravening this section is ‘with the object’ of introducing or spreading a disease in the Republic. Not only is this qualification in conflict with the general tenor of the omnibus provisions referred to in the introductory section above, but makes a mockery, somewhat, of the prohibition in the provision itself; and, indeed, its rationale. 

  5. Section 32(1)(a) read with section 20(1)(a). 

  6. Section 32(1)(a) read with section 20(1)(a). 

  7. Or any parasite or contaminated or infectious thing. 

  8. Section 32(1)(j) read with section 6(1)(a). 

  9. Section 32(1)(m)(iii) read with section 6(1)(a). 

  10. Section 32(1)(u) read with section 24(3) and (4). 

  11. Section 32(1)(u) read with section 24(2). 

  12. Section 32(1)(f). 

  13. Section 32(1)(g). 

  14. Section 32(1)(h). 

  15. Section 32(1)(j). 

  16. Section 32(1)(t) read with section 18(7). 

  17. Section 32(1)(t) read with section 18(7). 

  18. Section 32(1)(m)(ii) read with section 6(2)(a). 

  19. Section 32(1)(m)(ii) read with section 6(2)(b). 

  20. Section 32(1)(i) read with section 16(2)(a)(iii). 

  21. Section 32(1)(l). 

  22. Section 32(1)(l). 

  23. Section 32(1)(b) read with section 8(1). 

  24. Or any thing. 

  25. Section 32(1)(b) read with section 8(3). 

  26. Section 32(1)(u) read with section 12(1)(a) and (b). 

  27. Section 32(1)(u) read with section 12(4)(b). 

  28. Section 32(1)(b) read with section 12(4)(a). 

  29. Section 32(1)(w)(i) read with section 16(1)(a)(ii). 

  30. Section 32(1)(w)(i) read with section 16(1)(a)(ii). 

  31. Section 32(1)(w)(ii) read with section 16(1)(b)(ii). 

  32. Section 32(1)(w)(iii) read with section 16(2)(b)(i). 

  33. Section 32(1)(v) read with section 25(1). 

  34. Section 32(1)(v) read with section 25(2). 

  35. Section 32(1)(c). 

  36. Section 32(1)(d). 

  37. Section 32(1)(e). 

  38. Section 32(1)(q). 

  39. Section 32(1)(s) read with section 11(1)(a). 

  40. Section 32(1)(s) read with section 11(1)(b)(i). 

  41. Section 13(1)(o) read with section 10. 

  42. Section 13(1)(p) read with section 9. 

  43. Section 32(1)(s) read with section 11(1)(b)(ii).