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Sheep Scab

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Sheep scab is one of the most contagious diseases of sheep in Wales.

Sheep scab is caused by a mite (Psoroptes ovis). The mites live on the surface of the skin and their droppings cause an allergic reaction in the infested sheep. It is this allergic reaction that causes the sheep to scratch intensely. The itch causes distress and can even stop animals grazing.

Sheep scab is spread by direct contact with infected sheep or from areas and objects where infected sheep have recently (up to 15 days) been present. Mites can be carried from flock to flock on clothing and equipment.

Flock owners and sheep keepers are legally obliged to treat and control sheep scab. in their flocks. Reports of untreated sheep scab are referred to Local Authorities (LA) who are responsible for enforcement of The Sheep Scab Order 1997 (external link). The Sheep Scab Order gives the LA the means to control sheep scab when owners do not take appropriate measures. Local Authority (LA) inspectors have powers to serve notices to ensure that owners and sheep keepers comply with the requirements of the order.

An Inspector may require isolation or movement and detention of sheep pending confirmation of the disease. The Inspector may serve a notice to require the owner or keeper to treat the sheep. Veterinary and keeper declarations of treatment are required within 14 days of treatment or evidence of slaughter of the flock will be required. Where necessary, the LA may cause the sheep to be treated at the owner’s or keeper’s expense and the costs may be recovered as a civil debt.

In Wales an industry led Sheep Scab group was set up to consider options on the best approach for tackling Sheep Scab. The sheep scab group work as a subgroup of the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework (AHWF). The subgroup is seeking further research into the levels of sheep scab in Wales.