Emergency animal diseases can cause serious consequences to industries, communities and people.

For example, the equine influenza outbreak in New South Wales and Queensland during 2007-2008 cost Australian governments at least $350 million in direct costs. It also cost an additional $1.5 billion in indirect costs to the horse industry and the nation.

Should Australia experience a large foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in several states, the cost to the nation has been estimated at more than $50 billion over 10 years. In addition to the response costs borne by governments and industry, an outbreak would take a massive toll on agricultural communities and businesses in rural and regional Australia. Disease threats to animals are serious and potentially expensive to the Australian economy and to people’s livelihoods.

Australia has a detailed plan for responding to emergency disease outbreaks called AUSVETPLAN. This plan has been used in recent years to respond to equine influenza and Hendra virus outbreaks.

Australia's Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement is a national agreement setting out how state and federal governments will work with animal industries to pay for any emergency disease responses. Generally, the governments agree to coordinate the response to an outbreak, and the industry collects money in succeeding years to repay part of the cost of the response.

Veterinarians are at the forefront of both surveillance and response to disease outbreaks, and the AVA is closely involved to represent the nation's veterinarians during an emergency.

In 2013, Australia's Animal Health Committee reached agreement on standard terms and conditions for engaging private veterinary practitioners. These have been agreed to by all states and territories and will be implemented by all jurisdictions if there's an emergency animal disease outbreak. They provide much clearer structures and processes around private veterinary practitioners participating in disease responses, as well as standardising pay and conditions.

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