There has been an increase in the number of inspections based on suspected animal welfare offences in recent years. However, despite the higher number of inspections, the proportion of offences found during the inspections has remained unchanged. On average, approximately one inspection in two based on suspicion of violation leads to official action.
Along with the new Act on Veterinary Service, effective from 2009, about forty local authorities and joint municipal boards have already utilised government funding and appointed official veterinary surgeons with a specific focus on monitoring compliance. These so-called control veterinarians not only allow the separation of animal welfare control from the other functions of veterinary surgeons, but also provide added resources for municipal authorities to inspect sites where animal keeping is suspected to contravene the animal welfare legislation.
The effects of the increased monitoring resources are directly evident in the number of animal welfare inspections completed. The number of inspection visits based on suspected offences rose in 2010 from the previous years’ average of 2,500 to almost 3,500, and in2011 the official veterinarians reported more than 3,600 inspection visits to monitor compliance with the regulations on the care and housing conditions of production animals and pets. In addition to the control veterinarians and other municipal veterinary surgeons, provincial veterinary officers have also undertaken many inspections, particularly the more demanding cases.
In 2011, more than 38 per cent of reported inspection visits based on suspected animal welfare offences resulted in bans or orders under the Animal Welfare Act. Cases of serious neglect resulting in urgent measures to ensure the welfare of the animals were found in about 7 per cent of the inspection visits. Although the inspection numbers have increased in recent years, the proportion of inspections leading to action out of all inspections conducted has remained relatively steady. Thus, there is a continued need for inspections.
Inspections of sites with pets on the increase
Reported per animal species, more than 4,600 animal welfare inspections based on suspicion of violation were carried out in 2011. The higher number of inspections than that of the total number for the year is due to a single inspection visit being reported as several separate inspections when there are several animal species to be inspected on the site. In recent years, the number of inspections reported per animal species has fluctuated steadily between 3,200 and 3,500, rising to 4,300 in 2010.
The share of inspections concerning pets grew clearly more from the previous year than that of production animals, in the case of which the number of inspections remained roughly unchanged. Of the inspections reported per species, the subjects of a little over 2,600 were production animals and slightly more than 1,700 were pets. In the remaining 300 cases, the animal species on the site was not reported. Regardless of the increase, the number of inspections concerning pets was still clearly lower than that concerning production animals.
Like in previous years, the highest number of bans or orders was issued to production animal sites in 2011, while cases requiring urgent action most often concerned pets. In 45 per cent of the cases concerning inspected production animal farms and 33 per cent of premises where pets were kept, orders were issued to remedy the shortcomings found within a specified period. Urgent action was taken in less than 5% of inspected production animal farms and a good 8% of cases involving pets.