Farmyard Animals as pets – biosecurity in the backyard

Published on 22 January 2019

pig selfie

Hand-rearing farm animals such as chooks, pigs, and lambs can be a fantastic experience. Whether it’s helping kids learn about where their food comes from, a way of closing your food chain loop or simply as great companions.

But did you know that farm animals can also be carriers of disease which can be transmitted to other animals and humans?

Having a clear understanding of bio-security, as well as planning and legislative requirements relating to keeping animals is important to reduce the risk of your backyard companion inadvertently becoming a biosecurity disaster.

As reported by CSIRO in the article Do you have farm animals as pets? Then you need to know about biosecurity (December 2018), there are a range of notifiable diseases which can infect poultry, pigs and other livestock which, if introduced into Australia could decimate the Australian agricultural export industry.

Contact with wild animals has can lead to infection with a wide range diseases which can then be transmitted to humans, known as zoonotic diseases, including Avian Influenza (bird flu) and Influenza A H1N1 (swine flu).

As well as the risk to human health, pet livestock can transmit diseases to other animals.

Feeding kitchen scraps which contain meat or may have come into contact with meat or other mammalian products (with the exception of dairy products from 100% Australian sources or imported into Australia specifically as animal feed) – known as swill feeding – is illegal and is recognised as one of the greatest risks of introducing exotic diseases into Australia. Swill feeding is believed to have caused the 2001 foot and mouth disease in the UK, which led to thousands of animals having to be destroyed.

Swill feeding of pigs is recognised as carrying a high risk of introducing foot and mouth disease (FMD) and African swine fever (ASW). The Department of Agriculture states that even a minor outbreak of FMD lasting three months would cost the Australian agriculture industry over $7 billion, with a long term impact on the economy of over $50 billion. It is recognised that backyard and pet pigs carry a disproportionately high risk of exposure to swill feeding due to low levels of access to industry information and training by amateur and hobbyist pig keepers.

The recent planning for sustainable animal industries reforms provide clarity that any land used to keep or breed pigs is classified as Pig Farm, which is a permit required activity in Farm Zone, Rural Activity Zone, Rural Conservation Zone, Rural Living Zone and Green Wedge/Green Wedge A Zones. Pig farm is a prohibited land use in Urban Floodway, Urban Growth, Commercial, Industrial and Residential Zones.

While there has been some confusion over whether the planning reforms include the keeping of pet pigs, where individual pigs are kept for companion purposes only, the Surf Coast Shire does not recognise pigs or other livestock as pet animal species. As such, any property within the Surf Coast Shire where pigs are kept must hold a planning permit to operate a Pig Farm.

For more information on keeping pets in the Surf Coast Shire: https://www.surfcoast.vic.gov.au/Community/Pets-and-animals/Animals-allowed

All properties in Australia where pigs, poultry (over 50 birds other than emus or ostriches) or grazing animals are kept require a Property Identification Code (PIC) www.pic.agriculture.vic.gov.au