If there is cause to suspect that an animal is being cared for or handled in violation of the Animal Welfare Act, the local animal welfare authorities should be contacted, as they are authorised to conduct inspections.
In cases of minor deficiencies, the authorities provide the owner of the animal with information and guidance so as to promote the animal’s well-being. If violations are found, the owner of the animal is ordered to rectify the situation within a prescribed period of time. After the expiry of the period, the site is re-inspected to ensure that the order has been observed. The order can be intensified with conditional imposition of a fine or threat of the required action being taken at the owner’s expense, if necessary.
The Animal Welfare Act also gives authorities the right to take immediate action during an inspection visit to ensure the well-being of the animal, if warranted by reasons of animal welfare. In severe cases of neglect concerning companion animals, the animal is in most cases taken into custody immediately. In the case of production animals, feed and drink, as well as a person to care for the animal on the farm, are acquired or, alternatively, care for the animal is arranged elsewhere. If this is not possible or feasible, the animal may be killed.
Separate posts of control veterinarians to be established in municipalities
Most animal welfare inspections based on suspicions of violations are conducted by municipal veterinarians. The position of the municipal veterinarian as an inspector has been found difficult in cases where the veterinarian also has a customer relationship with the farm to be inspected. One of the purposes of the new Veterinary Care Act, which entered into force in November 2009, is to ensure that animal welfare control is segregated from the other activities of veterinarians. The aim is to encourage municipalities to hire official veterinarians focusing exclusively on control activities in their respective regions, with the additional resources provided by the state.
Health inspectors and the police can also carry out animal welfare inspections based on suspicion. In addition to authorities, animal welfare inspectors authorised by the Regional State Administrative Agencies conduct animal welfare inspections.
Following the new Veterinary Care Act, 15 new posts of provincial veterinary officers were established in the Regional State Administrative Agencies for regular regional control of farms with production animals. At the request of local animal welfare authorities (municipal veterinarian, health inspector, or police), provincial veterinary officers are also responsible for animal welfare control activities in demanding cases of neglect, which will improve the efficiency and consistency of animal welfare control.