Individuals and their duties

Creating disease control plans ahead of an outbreak provides time for local authorities, farmers, vets and others to discuss, consider and understand their duties. This minimises confusion during depopulation, as the roles of individuals and groups are already clearly assigned and agreed. Killing for disease control is a unique situation which greatly differs from normal farm routines and, for many people, it is likely to be the first time they are involved in such work. It is important the right people are selected for each job, i.e. people with knowledge of animal handling and/or slaughter should be assigned these tasks where possible in order to maintain the highest possible standards of animal welfare. 

As each case should be considered individually, the exact roles and staff numbers required to carry out the strategy laid out in the local/regional Control Plans will differ. The operational activities described in the Control Plans should be led by a competent person, with the relevant skills and experience, acting as the IC. Usually this is a veterinary surgeon or senior animal health officer. The IC is sometimes also referred to as an Official Veterinarian (e.g. in the OIE guidelines). The IC manages a specialist team of people which is headed by a Team Leader (see Figure 2). The team leader is directly answerable to the IC. The team members are allocated roles across the affected site. Each team should contain a veterinary surgeon or at least have access to veterinary advice at all times. The team should consist of personnel with the competencies to conduct all required operations. The team leaders, vets, animal handlers, killing personnel, carcase disposal personnel and farmers all contribute to the success of the operation and have their own roles within this task. In some situations personnel may be required to fulfil more than one function. Although it is the job of the killing personnel to kill the animals, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure animals are treated humanely and killed efficiently. Figure 2 shows the hierarchy of individuals and teams employed during an outbreak of disease. The roles and responsibilities of each are shown as described by the OIE in their Terrestrial Health Code.

Figure 2: Schematic diagram of the staff required during a disease outbreak.

Role and responsibilities of the Incident Commander (local/regional level plans)

The IC:

  • is responsible for all activities across the affected premises, whether on one or multiple holdings. The IC should be supported by coordinators when planning the logistics and during the operations;
  • has the authority to select and appoint personnel to specialist teams and ensures team members adhere to the required animal welfare and biosecurity standards. When appointing personnel, the IC should ensure the people involved have the required competencies for their role as described in this online guide;
  • provides guidance and support to team members regarding the operations and associated logistics. This is to ensure consistency in adherence to the OIE animal welfare and health recommendations;
  • must be aware of the pros and cons of the available killing methods available. The methods selected by the IC depend upon the circumstances surrounding each affected site.

Role and responsibilities of the Team Leader (farm-level plans)

The leader of the specialist team has responsibilities to:

  • plan overall operations on affected premises and develop a Killing Plan;
  • determine and address the animal welfare, operator safety and biosecurity requirements;
  • monitor operations to ensure animal welfare, operator safety and biosecurity requirements are met;
  • organise, inform and manage a team of people to facilitate the humane killing of relevant animals on the premises, in accordance with national regulations and the recommendations provided here;
  • determine the required logistics;
  • report back to the IC on both progress and problems experienced;
  • provide a written report to the IC at the conclusion of the killing describing the practices adopted and their effect on animal welfare, operator safety and biosecurity outcomes.

The team leader must have:

  • appreciation and understanding of normal animal husbandry practices;
  • appreciation and understanding of animal welfare and the underpinning behavioural, anatomical and physiological processes involved in the killing process;
  • appropriate skills to manage all activities on premises and deliver outcomes on time;
  • awareness of potential psychological effects on farmer, team members and general public;
  • effective communication skills;
  • appreciation of the environmental impacts caused by their operation.

Role and responsibilities of veterinary surgeons (farm-level plans)

The role of veterinary surgeons in the specialist teams is to:

  • determine and supervise the implementation of the most appropriate killing method to ensure that animals are killed without avoidable pain and distress;
  • determine and implement the additional requirements for animal welfare including the order of killing;
  • ensure death is confirmed by competent persons at appropriate times after the killing procedure;
  • minimise the risk of disease spread within and from the premises through the supervision of biosecurity procedures;
  • continuously monitor animal welfare and biosecurity procedures;
  • prepare a written report in cooperation with the IC, at the conclusion of the killing, describing the practices adopted and their effect on animal welfare.

The veterinarians must be competent in their ability to assess:

  • animal welfare, especially the effectiveness of stunning and killing and to correct any deficiencies;
  • biosecurity risks.

Role and responsibilities of animal handlers (farm-level plans)

The animal handlers:

  • evaluate the suitability of on-site facilities;
  • design and construct temporary animal handling facilities when required;
  • move and restrain animals;
  • continuously monitor animal welfare and biosecurity procedures.

The animal handlers must be competent in:

  • animal handling in emergency situations including during close confinement when required;
  • understanding biosecurity and containment principles.

Role and responsibilities of animal killing personnel (farm-level plans)

Animal killing personnel are responsible for ensuring the humane killing of the livestock through effective stunning and killing.

They must be competent in:

  • the use of techniques required for stunning and killing the species involved;
  • the use of specialised equipment and where necessary hold the correct licences required for such equipment;
  • the use and maintenance of relevant equipment;
  • the assessment of effective stunning and killing.

Role and responsibilities of carcase disposal personnel (farm-level plans)

The carcase disposal personnel are responsible for:

  • efficient carcase disposal complying with biosecurity rules;
  • ensuring the carcase disposal does not hinder/effect killing operations.

The carcase disposal personnel must be competent in the:

  • the use and maintenance of available equipment;
  • application of techniques for the species involved.

Role and responsibilities of farm owners/managers and stockpeople (farm-level plans)

The psychological impact of these operations on the farm owners/managers and stockpeople must be appreciated by all personnel involved in the killing of animals for disease control purposes. They should be allowed to engage with the operation to the extent with which (s)he feels comfortable. The role of the farm owners/managers and stockpeople during depopulation for disease control is to assist the team when requested.

The farm owners/managers and stockpeople must be competent in their:

  • specific knowledge of their animals;
  • understanding of biosecurity;
  • knowledge of the local area and environment.

Next: Logistical and biosecurity issues associated with disease control at a farm level

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