The Legislative Assembly (AL) on Wednesday passed the outline of a government-initiated animal disease control bill.
The bill proposes that owners of veterinary clinics and vets who confirm or suspect the outbreak of an animal disease in the pursuit of their duties shall report the situation to the Municipal Affairs Bureau (IAM) within 24 hours, while if the confirmed or suspected outbreak comes to their notice outside normal working hours of the public administration, they shall report it to the Public Security Police (PSP) within 24 hours
Macau currently does not have a legal system regulating the prevention and control of an animal disease outbreak.
Secretary for Administration and Justice Sónia Chan Hoi Fan introduced the outline of the bill during a plenary session in the legislature’s hemicycle on Wednesday.
Chan noted that the government carried out a public consultation on the drafting of the animal disease control bill in 2017. In addition, according to Chan, the government has “fully taken into account” the animal disease control and prevention measures implemented in neighbouring regions and countries, as well as the recommended animal health measures and animal health standards issued by the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), before drafting the current bill.
“In order to effectively and fully monitor the situation of an animal disease outbreak in Macau, it was necessary for the government to draft a specific regulation on preventing and controlling animal disease outbreaks, giving the government the power to take clear, concrete and universally valid measures for the prevention of any such outbreak,” Chan said.
The bill states that if the person in charge of a public or private veterinary institution or a vet has confirmed or does suspect an animal disease outbreak, he or she shall inform the Municipal Affairs Bureau about it within 24 hours.
According to bill, the veterinary personnel shall report the situation to the Public Security Police instead if they happen to confirm or suspect the outbreak outside the normal working hours of the public administration.
According to the bill, the veterinary personnel shall keep the affected animals or their cadavers on their premises until IAM staff members arrive to take charge of the situation. They shall also disinfect the affected equipment and objects and isolate the animals infected with, or suspected of being infected with the disease.
The bill proposes that those violating the rule – veterinary personnel failing to report the suspected or confirmed outbreak to the authorities within 24 hours and/or failing to take the required measures prior or the arrival of IAM staff – will face a fine of between 5,000 and 20,000 patacas.
The bill also proposes that the local government shall report any animal disease outbreak to the central government’s animal health entity.
The bill also states that the local government may choose to report an animal disease outbreak in Macau to the respective animal health entities in neighbouring regions and countries, based on the principle of mutual benefit, with the aim of protecting Macau’s public health and safety.
Non-establishment lawmaker-cum-activist Sulu Sou Ka Hou noted that the public consultation in 2017 was about the drafting of a bill regulating the city’s vets and animal disease control which included four aspects: 1) the prevention and control of an animal disease outbreak; 2) the licensing of veterinarians, 3) the licensing of veterinary clinics, and 4) the licensing of pet shops.
Sou said he wondered why the government has now submitted a bill on animal disease control only, and asked Chan how about the progress of the drafting of legislation on the other three aspects.
Chan replied that the government was still drafting a bill regulating the other three aspects, pledging that the government will finish its drafting process as soon as possible and submit a separate bill to the legislature in due course.
Lawmaker Chan Iek Lap, a doctor, questioned the feasibility of the implementation of the 24-hour-reporting rule, as Macau currently does not have a law regulating the licensing of veterinarians. IAM officials replied during the plenum that the bureau knows that about 20 private veterinary clinics are in business in Macau and that each of them has its own vets, so that the rule was “implementable”, adding that the clinics’ professionals could be formally recognised after the legislature passes a bill regulating the licensing of vets in the future.
According to the Macau Post Daily, the animal disease control bill passed on Wednesday will now be submitted to one of the legislature’s standing committees for detailed review, before being submitted to another plenary session for its final reading and article-by-article vote.