The Specialist Unit is an independent body established on the basis of Art. 18 para. 6 in conjunction with Art. 18a para. 1 of the Austrian Animal Welfare Act. It serves as a central agency providing information and assessment in animal welfare. Its location on the grounds of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna enables professional exchange with veterinary experts, particularly with regard to animal husbandry and animal welfare, at any given time.
Assessment of animal housing systems and stable facilities as well as pet accommodations and pet accessories:
The Specialist Unit’s role is to check that animal housing systems and stable facilities, pet accommodations and pet accessories as well as other technical equipment used in husbandry and pet keeping are in compliance with the Austrian Animal Welfare Act.
Article 18 para. 7 of the Austrian Animal Welfare Act stipulates the mandatory examination of all new types of mass-produced housing systems and new types of technical equipment for keeping animals before they are offered on the Austrian market. New types of products are defined as any that were not in use in animal husbandry in Austria prior to March 2012 (date of entry into force of the Specialist Unit/Husbandry System Regulation) or that differ, either as a whole or in their individual components, from existing systems or equipment, thus changing their functional areas of use or their use by animals.
However, Art. 18 para. 8 of the Austrian Animal Welfare Act also provides for a voluntary examination of products. Numerous companies take this opportunity to have their products examined and labelled with the Animal Welfare Label to offer their customers safety and legal certainty.
Examination and assessment of documents and training material
On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection or third parties, the Specialist Unit, as a central information and assessment agency, is also authorised to assess e.g. training material, training courses etc. and write expert reports within the meaning of Art. 18a para. 2 and 5 of the Animal Welfare Act.
The duties of the Specialist Unit include the collecting and keeping of scientific and legal fundamental documents as well as the preparation of manuals and checklists on issues of animal welfare.
Furthermore the Specialist Unit is authorised to produce, publish and distribute printed publications, sound and image carriers and other data storage media, replicas as well as other items that are directly connected with its activities and can also host specialist training, basic training and advanced training events.
On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection, the Specialist Unit acts as the National Contact Point for scientific support under Art. 20, Council Reg. (EC) No 1099/2009 and represents Austria in the European Reference Centre for Pigs, the European Reference Centre for Poultry and other small farmed animals (EURCAW) and the European Reference Centre for ruminants and equines.