Frequently Asked Questions

What is Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD)?

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a serious and highly contagious viral animal disease that affects all cloven-hoofed animals, both domestic and wild including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, camelids (such as camels and alpacas), deer and buffalo/bison. Cloven-hoofed animals are those with divided hooves. Other susceptible wild and zoo animals found in NSW include giraffe, Asian elephants, Himalayan tahr, Barbary sheep, antelopes and banteng.

Horses, donkeys and zebras are not affected.

How is it spread?

FMD is a highly contagious virus carried by live animals and in contaminated meat and dairy products, bones and untreated hides. The virus can be present and transmitted through animal waste (urine and faeces), soil, vehicles and equipment used with infected animals and carried on people’s clothing and footwear. It can survive in frozen, chilled and freeze-dried foods. The virus can also be carried by the wind.

What are the symptoms?

Signs of FMD include:

  • Blisters or erosions in and around the mouth, snout, tongue and lips, on teats or between and above the hooves or feet
  • Drooling
  • Limping, lameness or reluctance to move
  • Reduced appetite
  • Fever

If livestock exhibit any signs consistent with FMD, report it immediately to the Emergency Animal Disease hotline 1800 675 888, NSW DPI or a Local Land Services District Veterinarian.

Why is FMD an important issue for zoos and petting zoos?

FMD is considered one of Australia’s greatest biosecurity risks. Australia is currently free of FMD, so an incursion would have severe consequences for Australia’s animal health and trade.

There are specific risks to zoos and petting zoos, in addition to the risk of animal infection. If there was an outbreak of FMD in Australia, depending on whether the zoo or petting zoo was within an infected area, adjacent to an infected area or distant from an infected area the following actions could be implemented:

  • Some animal movements may be suspended or restricted
  • Animal food supplies and other animal product movements may be difficult to access
  • Movement of animal workers e.g. farriers, veterinarians, shearers may be restricted. This may have implications for staff, animal procedures and animal welfare
  • Visitation to the zoo may be restricted or suspended
  • Interactive and animal feeding programs may be suspended
  • Petting zoos may be prohibited from travelling or restricted in their travel capabilities.

How could FMD be introduced into Australia?

FMD is most likely to enter Australia through illegal imports of meat and dairy products infected with the FMD virus and the subsequent illegal feeding of these products (swill) to susceptible animals.

It could also enter Australia through contaminated clothing and boots.

Strict quarantine, surveillance and biosecurity conditions are in place to prevent FMD entering Australia.

NSW and all other Australian states and territories have strict laws that prohibit swill feeding. To help prevent FMD and other serious diseases, domestic and wild pigs must be prevented from eating food scraps. Pig farms, rubbish tips and ports are monitored to make sure that food scraps are not fed to pigs.

What can I do?

  • Monitor animals daily and report any suspicious signs
  • Ensure early intervention by veterinarians if disease is suspected
  • Develop a robust biosecurity plan (a template is coming soon) for your zoo or petting zoo.

Zookeepers and petting zoo operators should be mindful of good hygiene practices around animals. Look, Report, Protect:

  • LOOK for and know the signs of FMD
  • REPORT suspect cases to your veterinarian and the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 immediately
  • PROTECT your animals and livelihood:
    • Have a biosecurity management plan in place
    • If you keep one or more domestic cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, bison, buffalo, deer, camelids or equids (horses, donkeys) you must have a registered Property Identification Code. For more information go to:
    • Wash your hands before and after feeding and petting animals
    • Provide visitors with advice about the safe handling and feeding of animals, actively prevent swill feeding to animals by visitors, and have appropriate wash stations and products available for visitors to practise personal hygiene before and after interacting with animals.
    • Thoroughly check and clean the soles of your shoes so you’re not transferring manure or mud between animal holding pens or when you leave the premises. Alternatively, provide staff with boots or shoes dedicated to each area in the premises.

Operating clean takes commitment. Ensure all vehicles, equipment, people and animals are clean when entering a zoo or petting zoo premises and clean when leaving, preventing the spread of any unwanted pests and diseases. See: Information for Zoos and Petting Zoos on Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) (PDF, 285.48 KB) for more information.

If there is an outbreak of FMD in NSW would all susceptible animals in zoos or petting zoos be culled?

Australia’s FMD policy is to stamp out the disease by removing infected and high-risk animals. This would be animals within an agreed radius of an affected herd. There are agreed methods in place to ensure that animals are treated and destroyed humanely.

Is FMD a risk to humans?

FMD is not of concern for human health or food safety. It is a contagious viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals including cattle, sheep, goats, camelids, deer and pigs. It can infect people, but the signs are generally mild and self-limiting. FMD is not the same as hand-foot-and-mouth disease which is a common disease in young children.

If there is an outbreak in zoos or petting zoos, will I be compensated?

Australia's Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA) documents nationally agreed arrangements for the cost sharing of compensation paid to affected livestock enterprises, and payments are managed under jurisdictional legislation varying between states/territories: