Animal welfare inspections based on suspicion 2014

Suspicion of animals being kept in breach of animal welfare regulations led to nearly five thousand inspection visits in 2014. The authorities receive most of the reports based on suspicion directly from the public, but also suspicions of negligence brought to their attention publicly are forwarded to the local animal welfare authorities for verification. The number of inspections was on the same level for the third year in a row. The relative proportion of violations detected during the inspections has also remained the same. As in previous years, slightly less than half of the inspections led to measures being taken by the authorities.

The increased resources for controls in the municipalities are used for monitoring the suspected non-compliances

There has been a clear increase in the number of inspection visits since 2012, when the number of inspections increased by about a thousand compared to previous years. After the Act on Veterinary Services came into force at the end of 2009, the municipalities and joint municipal authorities have employed official veterinarians who concentrate specifically on controls, and this has made it possible to separate the animal welfare controls from the other veterinary responsibilities. There are currently about 60 official veterinarians, so-called control veterinarians,  employed by the municipalities. Also the Regional Veterinary Officers of the Regional State Administrative Agencies handle especially the most demanding animal welfare inspections. In addition to the official veterinarians, animal welfare inspections are also carried out by the police, health inspectors and some animal welfare officers authorised by the Regional State Administrative Agencies. Finnish Food Authority does not have statistical information on any inspections other than those carried out by official veterinarians.

The proportion of violations is constant

In about 32 per cent of the inspections based on suspicion in 2014, the animal owner or holder was issued with either an order to correct the observed deficiencies within a set timeframe or were prohibited from continuing the practices in breach of the animal welfare legislation. The purpose of these measures is to raise the quality of the animal care to the minimum level required by law. Serious negligence which required the authorities to take urgent measures to secure the welfare of the animals was detected in 9 percent of the inspections. In the case of larger animals, such urgent measures in the first instance usually involve giving the animals’ food and water and providing them with somebody to look after them. Smaller animals are mostly taken elsewhere for care. If it is not possible or practical to arrange care for the animals, they can be sold or put down.

The results of the animal welfare inspections based on suspicion are similar to the results for the previous years. Despite fluctuations in the numbers of inspections, the percentage of negligence has remained almost unchanged for the last few years. Prohibitions or orders in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act were issued to 32–38 per cent of the inspected sites in the last five years.In addition, inspections that have led to urgent measures being taken in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act in order to ensure the welfare of the animals have varied between 6–9 %.

Every seventh inspection of companion animals leads to urgent measures being taken

As in previous years, the inspections of companion animals mainly involved dogs and cats, rabbits, different rodents, fish and reptiles, and the inspections of production animals involved mainly cattle, equine animals and sheep. Considerable numbers of pigs, goats, chickens and other poultry were also inspected.

Considered per species there were slightly more inspections involving companion animals than production animals. As to the results reported per species it has to be noted that when there are several species at the site inspected, one visit will be reported as several different inspections. Therefore the number of inspections per species, as well as the number of measures taken, is larger than when calculated based on the number of inspection visits. When reported per species, both production animals and companion animals were subjected to more than 3000 inspections each. In addition, the animal species on the holding was not reported in a couple of hundred cases. This group includes the more unusual targets for inspection, such as for example zoos and exhibitions or circuses, where the animals cannot be classified as production or companion animals.

With respect to production animals, there has been a tendency for several years that almost half of the inspections based on suspicion have led to prohibitions or orders being issued in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act (2014: 43 %), but urgent measures are seldom resorted to; last year urgent measures were taken in 3 per cent of the inspections. Prohibitions or orders have been issued to keepers of companion animals at only about every fourth inspection during the last three years, but urgent measures have been taken more often than in previous years. In 2014, violations requiring immediate action were reported in 14 % of the inspections of companion animals.