Fowl registration program slated; aims to make disease tracing faster

TEXAS - Texas animal health commissioners on February 18 will consider for adoption proposed regulations that will require domestic and exotic fowl sellers, distributors and transporters to register, making it easier to locate birds in a disease outbreak.
calendar icon 12 January 2004
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Fowl registration program slated; aims to make disease tracing faster - TEXAS - Texas animal health commissioners on February 18 will consider for adoption proposed regulations that will require domestic and exotic fowl sellers, distributors and transporters to register, making it easier to locate birds in a disease outbreak.

The commissioners will accept written public comments on the proposed regulations through January 18. House Bill 2328, passed during the 2003 Texas legislative session and signed into law, requires the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) to develop a registration program for fowl sellers, distributors and transporters who do not participate in recognized poultry or fowl disease surveillance programs.

“Many poultry diseases are highly contagious and when introduced into a flock, they spread quickly, threatening not only the state’s commercial chicken and turkey industry, but also backyard flocks, caged pet birds and fowl raised for agricultural exhibitions,” said Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas’ state veterinarian and head of the TAHC, the state’s livestock and poultry health regulatory agency. “Knowing who is selling and moving birds will allow us to access records, making it easier to track the movement of birds among flocks.”

“In April 2003, Exotic Newcastle Disease (END), a deadly poultry virus foreign to the U.S., was confirmed in a small backyard flock near El Paso. State and federal quarantines were imposed on five counties in Texas and New Mexico, and for weeks, animal health teams combed neighborhoods, flea markets, roadside stands and feed stores to test birds, and provide information on disease, biosecurity and movement restrictions,” he said. “More than 800 flocks were tested.If these flocks had been registered, the disease surveillance effort could have been conducted quickly and efficiently.”

Dr. Hillman said that, although no additional infection was detected in El Paso, the mere presence of END in Texas has cost the commercial poultry industry millions of dollars, due to trade restrictions imposed by nearly 30 countries. In California, the 2002-2003 END outbreak took an even greater toll when the virus jumped from from backyard flocks to more than 20 commercial poultry operations. By year’s end, more than 3 million birds in California had been destroyed at a cost of $160 million to finally stamp out the viral outbreak, and thousands of hours were spent searching for at-risk flocks and tracking the movement of birds that had been sold or traded.

So, who does and doesn’t need to register with the TAHC?

The proposed regulations exempt flocks enrolled in the National Poultry Improvement Plan’s (NPIP) U.S. Pullorum-Typhoid Clean (PT) and U.S. Avian Influenza Clean (LPAI) programs. Or the flocks may be enrolled in Texas Poultry Federation’s avian influenza monitoring program. “These flocks already have regular disease surveillance protocols,” said Dr. Hillman. “Flock owners also may request an individual review for exemption, provided they participate in a program in which birds are routinely tested for pullorum-typhoid and avian influenza.”

“Registration will be required for distributors, transporters and the dealers who sell at public sites, such as auctions, flea markets and other venues,” said Dr. Hillman. “For the most part, we are targeting domestic fowl, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks and game fowl raised for food, eggs or agricultural exhibition. However, dealers, distributors or transporters of exotic or pet birds (parakeets, parrots and a host of other caged birds) must register only if their birds are commingled or transported with domestic fowl, or are sold at the same public venue with domestic fowl. Exotic birds in commingled settings may be exposed to poultry diseases, or transport viruses or bacteria, even if they are not susceptible to infection. In a disease outbreak, it may be necessary to trace the movement and sale of these pet birds. At the sales, all fowl and birds must be confined to help reduce the chance for disease exposure.”

Dr. Hillman stressed that the proposed registration program will not affect current TAHC regulations requiring that poultry offered for public sale or trade originate from flocks or hatcheries that are free of pullorum-typhoid, diseases caused by Salmonella bacteria. Sellers must furnish proof of their source of poultry or hatching eggs and be qualified by the Texas Pullorum-Typhoid Program as prescribed by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) and/or the National Poultry Improvement Plan. Poultry that are not properly identified and qualified as pullorum-typhoid clean are prohibited from sale and will be returned to the owner's or dealer's premises.

“A key component for disease tracking or surveillance is good record keeping,” stressed Dr. Hillman. “Registrants will need to follow current and proposed TAHC regulations that require dealers to maintain and make available to the TAHC all records for two years on the sale, barter or exchange of domestic or exotic fowl.” Information that must be collected includes the buyer’s and seller’s names and addresses, any movement or health status documents, transaction dates, and the number, breed, sex and description of the birds. Individual identification devices, such as wing or leg bands, will not be required.

“A biosecurity component also is included in the proposed regulations and stipulates that fowl be kept in clean and sanitary conditions. Furthermore, registrants are to notify the TAHC of reportable disease exposure or infections,” commented Dr. Hillman.

Dr. Hillman said registration will involve completing an application annually with the TAHC and providing a list of the locations where domestic fowl, or domestic and exotic fowl are to be sold, distributed or transported. HB 2328 authorizes the TAHC to charge a fee for registration, and a sliding scale has been proposed, based on the seller’s flock size. Fees range from $25 for fewer than 100 fowl, to $500 for more than 2,500 birds. Distributors or transporters will be charged an annual fee of $500. The registration requirement and fees also will apply to out-of-state business operators who plan to transact business in Texas.

Dr. Hillman said the TAHC commissioners will accept public comments on the proposed regulations through January 18. Comments should be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to TAHC Comments, Box 12966, Austin, TX 78711-2966.

“If these proposed regulations are adopted by the 12 TAHC commissioners at their February 18 meeting in Austin, we will work with bird and poultry associations, markets, dealers and fowl and bird producers to implement the regulations.” noted Dr. Hillman. “TAHC staff at the TAHC offices or Austin headquarters also will be available to answer questions or provide registration applications.”

Source: Texas Animal Health Commission - 9th January 2004

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