Avian influenza outbreak: West Sussex animal rescue centre closes doors to wildlife and birds put to sleep

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An animal rescue centre in Worthing has had to put down all of the bird in its care – and cannot look after wildlife until further notice – after an avian influenza outbreak.

A strain of avian influenza was recently found in a group of captive birds in West Sussex. West Sussex County Council urged poultry keepers – in the Ferring area of Arun – to contact Trading Standards.

Housing and movement restrictions for birds were put in place by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) after the discovery of the strain, named H5N1.

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The outbreak impacted Ferring-based charity Wadars, which has operated in the local area for more than 50 years – rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals, in addition to rehoming cats, dogs and small animals as pets.

Poultry, geese, or duck keepers within the affected zone are asked to inform Trading Standards. Photo: Eddie MitchellPoultry, geese, or duck keepers within the affected zone are asked to inform Trading Standards. Photo: Eddie Mitchell
Poultry, geese, or duck keepers within the affected zone are asked to inform Trading Standards. Photo: Eddie Mitchell

“This is a post that we hoped we would never have to publish,” the charity wrote on social media.

"On the morning of Thursday 29th June, following the deterioration in health of a small number of birds in our care, we contacted Defra to report our concerns and invite them into our centre to carry out an assessment.

"They attended the same day and took away samples from some of the birds. At that point, as a precaution we went into lockdown until the results of the tests were known.”

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The charity said it received ‘devastating news’ from APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) on Friday evening – the samples had tested positive for avian influenza (bird flu).

“As a result of this we have had to close our doors to all wildlife for the foreseeable future,” the animal rescue centre said.

"Whilst it has been devastating that as a result of the disease all of the birds in our care had to be put to sleep, we do accept that this had to happen to prevent further spread.”

The charity confirmed that cats, rabbits, and other small animals were not affected by the outbreak. It has been able to continue the rehoming of domestic pets this week.

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A spokesperson added: “At this stage we do not know when we will be able to reopen our wildlife unit as that will be decided by the government, but meanwhile our animal welfare team will continue to care for the domestic animals at our centre and our mobile wildlife rescue service continues to respond to calls from the public about injured and orphaned wildlife.

“Our dedicated team of staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to care for all of the wild animals and birds in our care and this awful news has hit everyone very hard so please do bear that in mind if we are unable to help.

“If you are concerned about sick or injured wildlife, please contact us on 01903 247111 and our helpline staff will offer advice and support, and where possible a member of our mobile rescue team will endeavour to come out and assess the situation.”