BACKYARD HEN keepers in Scotland are increasingly leaving birds with rescue centres over fears of avian influenza.
The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) has reported close to 40 incidents of birds admitted to its care in December and January.
This compares with just four in the same period a year earlier.
There has also been a jump in the number of calls to the charity’s helpline with concerns over avian influenza, according to SSPCA’s chief superintendent Mike Flynn.
It comes as a second flock of commercial birds has tested positive for avian influenza in the country, confirmed as highly pathogenic H5N1.
“The increase in the number of birds arriving with us is very concerning,” he said.
“There have been confirmed cases of bird flu infecting commercial poultry in Orkney but this has now been managed, and there is no longer a threat.
“Recent reports confirmed avian influenza had infected kept gamebirds near Leven, Glenrothes.
“We would like to remind members of the public that the majority of cases of bird flu are being seen in migratory birds and as long as the mandatory precautions are followed for domestic and commercial poultry, the risk of incursion remains at a medium level for poultry with high biosecurity.
“The risk is high for poultry with poor biosecurity.
“We know that the threat of avian flu is a worry for owners, but there is never an excuse for abandoning an animal. It is an offence punishable by law. Our team is here for those looking for advice.
Should anyone suspect avian influenza in poultry or captive birds, it must be reported to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
Abandoning an animal is an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. Anyone found guilty of doing so can expect to be banned from keeping animals for a fixed period or life.