The Division of Animal Health has proposed amendments to the regulation governing laboratory services provided by the State Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory, available on its website as published in the New Jersey Register on September 4, 2018 (50 N.J.R. 1919).

The amendments would increase fees charged for animal disease diagnostic and testing services offered in the state of the art laboratory which replaced the long outdated facility previously located on the second floor in downtown Trenton.  The prior location made it impossible to perform certain diagnostic testing, such as necropsies on large animals.

The regulation would add 30 new tests and provide for molecular testing and referring services to other laboratories when required.  Some of the new tests pertain to bacterial isolation and identification and animals that are not domestic livestock.

Others would “facilitate the most economic and accurate diagnosis of clinical conditions by grouping tests. If done individually, the total cost to perform these tests would be more. Amendments are proposed in equine neurologic tests due to changes in the disease (West Nile, which is now endemic), increased knowledge of epidemiology (Western equine encephalitis), and unavailability of certain reagents for HI and IgG tests.”

The Division has proposed amendments to N.J.A.C. 2:10-2 to codify “the longstanding policy of not returning animal remains of any kinds due to the risks of disease transmission to the general community.”  New section 2:10-2.2 “would allow for submitters or animal owners to direct remains be disposed of to a licensed crematorium upon written request prior to the start of a necropsy.”

One of the most important amendments involves the protection of test results and related information (e.g., animal owner, animal identification, animal location) which reasonably protects the privacy of animal owners.  This longstanding policy should be codified.  The Division has identified a number of reasons to support this amendment, including: (1) laboratory reports are generally applicable only to the submitter; (2) reports include details of a private nature; (3) laboratory services are provided to livestock and other animal owners, veterinarians, and other submitters who pay for those services, which should remain private: (4) veterinary clients expect their information to remain private; (5) veterinarians are required to maintain the confidentiality of veterinary records  with few exceptions; (6) animal owners and veterinarians could circumvent disclosure of private information by using private or out of state laboratories which would decrease the State’s ability to identify and control disease; and (7) if tests are performed in other laboratories, interstate or international animal movement restrictions could be imposed without review by State animal health officials that might not be necessary or reasonable.

Comments to the proposed amendments are accepted until November 3, 2018.

Fees collected by the Division are not swept into the State coffers, but are instead “held separate and apart from all other funds of the State in a non-lapsing fund for annual appropriation to assure the provision of continuous support for the needed laboratory services.”

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA), through its Division of Animal Health (DAH), operates the New Jersey Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory (AHDL).

The AHDL provides diagnostic testing services to support disease control programs, health management, and productivity of livestock, equine, poultry, fish, and wildlife. The AHDL serves New Jersey’s companion animal owners by providing fast, accurate, convenient, and cost effective services to diagnose diseases in dogs, cats, exotics, and other pets. The AHDL serves as an expert veterinary diagnostic resource to state agencies, federal agencies, veterinarians, clinics, animal organizations, and universities.

Dr. Amar Patil, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVM is the Laboratory Director and the Assistant Director Division of Animal Health.

Dr. Manoel Tamassia, DVM, MS, PhD Dipl. Is the current Division Director and State Veterinarian, a position I previously held for nearly a decade.

As part of its Five-Year Plan for Supporting Antimicrobial Stewardship in Veterinary Settings—just released—FDA announced that it plans to shift from “educating” food animal veterinarians and producers about the 2016 Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) to “ensuring compliance with the . . . regulation to further ensure the safety of animal and human health.”  In other words, producers, veterinarians, and VFD medicated feed distributors (e.g., feed mills, retailers) should expect enhanced enforcement by FDA inspectors.

Those regulated should keep in mind that FDA inspectors will “examine VFD orders, requirements for the parties involved, and recordkeeping” during inspections.

FDA’s overall plans include three broad-based goals:

  1. Align antimicrobial drug product use with the principles of antimicrobial stewardship;

  2. Foster stewardship of antimicrobials in veterinary settings; and

  3. Enhance monitoring of antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial drug use in animals.

While described as a One Health initiative, FDA’s plans favor the preservation of medically important antibiotics for humans over animals, particularly food animals.  Also, while acknowledging that it does not regulate either veterinary medicine or farming activities, FDA has set forth plans that appear to attempt to extend their regulatory reach, through proposed expansion of inspection and testing of animals, including food animals, companion animals, animal feed, farm-raised seafood and retail meat.

FDA also plans on bringing the 5% of antimicrobials still available over the counter under veterinary oversight, including, for example intramammary treatment to prevent or treat mastitis.  Not only will this increase costs to producers (which will be passed along to consumers), but according to the AVMA, many farmers and ranchers in rural communities do not have access to adequate veterinary care because of veterinary shortages “in more than 180 rural communities across the country.”

Certainly, the issue of antimicrobial resistance is important.  However, the emphasis by some government officials and legislators too often focuses on limiting use of antibiotics important to maintain the health of animals.  And the collection and reporting of antibiotic use and test results are used by activists to eliminate the use of animals for food completely.

Testing of some food products, albeit for other purposes, resulted in the conviction of the owners and operators of the Decoster Egg Farms for “introducing eggs into interstate commerce that had been adulterated with Salmonella enteritidis,” even though the government admitted that it had identified any personnel, including the defendants who knew that the eggs were contaminated.  United States v. Decoster, 828 F.3d 626 (8th Cir. 2016) (Beam, J., dissenting).

Keep in mind that preventing Salmonella enteriditis was the basis for the adoption of enlarged cage requirements for hens in California despite evidence that such measures do not decrease the prevalence of the bacteria.  Furthermore, California and Massachusetts have imposed their regulations on producers in other states—an impermissible extraterritorial regulation in violation of dormant commerce clause, which has been challenged.  State of Missouri, et al. v. State of California, No. 22O148 (2017); State of Indiana, et al. v. Commonwealth of Mass., No. 22O149 (201

On August 20, 2018, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order No. 34  grossly limiting the hunting of black bears in the State.

“The Commissioner shall take all necessary and appropriate actions within the Commissioner’s authority to protect black bears on lands controlled by the State of New Jersey, including deciding whether to close said lands to the hunting of black bears pursuant to the Commissioner’s authority at N.J.S.A. 13:1B-5 et seq., as clarified and confirmed in Safari Club International v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 373 N.J. Super. 515 (App. Div. 2004).”

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), within the Department of Environmental Protection, issued a “Status Report On the Implementation of the 2015 Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy,” dated January 4, 2018.   The report describes the evolution of bear management control in New Jersey, set forth in the “Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP),” last updated in 2015.

DFW “manages black bears according to its . . . CBBMP to ensure the continued survival of black bears in New Jersey,” based on research conducted by the agency since 1980.

According to DFW, the following significant accomplishments obtained since the 2015 CBBMP was approved include:

  • DFW presented educational programs to nearly 15,000 people in 19 counties.

  • DFW partnered with “Untamed Science” to produce more than 200 copies of the Understanding Black Bears educational kits to schools.

  • DFW partnered with Untamed Science to convert the Understanding Black Bears curriculum to a web-based portal, which K-8 teachers and students can use free of charge.

  • DFW updated content on the NJDFW website.

  • DFW has updated, produced, and distributed 1,000 “Living in Bear Country” DVDs, 150,000 Know the Bear Facts brochures (40,000 in Spanish), 1,000 educational magnets, and 6,500 Bear Safety Signs for State Park trailheads.

  • DFW increased its presence on social media, specifically Facebook, to increase public awareness about bears.

  • DFW biologists captured 436 bears for research tagging and biological sampling, 77% of which were not previously tagged.

  • DFW worked on 96 bears in winter dens for ongoing fecundity measurements.

  • DFW biologists handled 2 adult female bears with a 6-cub litters.

  • DFW continues to provide samples to East Stroudsburg University for DNA analysis and research on black bear diseases and parasites.

  • DFW cooperated with University of WV and University of Utah on two research studies involving bear-human interaction.

  • DFW is collaborating with Stockton University on a research review of bear birth control efficacy.

  • DFW and Colorado State University are initiating research on bear-human conflicts.

  • DFW cooperated with PA and WV and West Virginia University on a habitat use study in the urban-wild land interface.

Despite these accomplishments, Governor Murphy, through his executive order will “limit the use of State lands for the black bear hunt” based, in part, on purported “considerable public outcry against a hunt.”  If the new test for regulation of animal issues is “public outcry” all animal-related industries should be concerned.

It appears that such limitations would not affect Special Farmer Black Bear Permits, even if the farm is a preserved farm pursuant to the State’s farmland preservation laws, since the holding of the lawsuit cited in the executive order, Safari Club International v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 373 N.J. Super. 515 (App. Div. 2004), only permitted the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection to limit hunting on lands owned or controlled by the Department of Environmental Protection, not the State of New Jersey.

The protection of livestock from bears remains a concern of farmers in the State.  I personally observed the lethal results of bear attacks on my patients when I was practicing as a large animal veterinarian and to horses when I served as the State Veterinarian.

A virulent form of Newcastle disease (vND), “a contagious and fatal viral disease affecting the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry,” as described on USDA’s Virulent Newcastle Disease webpage has been confirmed in 93 cases in backyard exhibition chickens and turkeys by USDA since May 18, 2018.

The last outbreak of vND started in 2002 infecting 22 commercial premises and hundreds of backyard flocks, at a cost of over $180 million dollars to eradicate the outbreak, officially ending on March 26, 2003.  That outbreak, which started in California spread to four other states, but the majority of affected premises were in California.

Since May of this year, USDA has been regularly updating its stakeholders with information about the current outbreak, which to date, has not infected commercial poultry premises.

USDA reports that vND (previously called Exotic Newcastle Disease or END) “is one of the most infectious diseases of poultry in the world and is so deadly that many birds die without showing any signs of disease. A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur in unvaccinated poultry flocks. It can infect and cause death even in vaccinated birds.”

There are “three simple steps” USDA describes to prevent the disease from spreading to other flocks including:

Washing hands and scrubbing boots before and after entering an area with birds;

Cleaning and disinfecting tires and equipment before moving them off the property; and

Isolating any birds returning from shows for 30 days before placing them with the rest of the flock.

Bird owners are directed to contact state and federal animal health officials if their birds exhibit the following clinical signs:

Sudden death and increased death loss in flock

Sneezing, gasping for air, nasal discharge, coughing

Greenish, watery diarrhea

Decreased activity, tremors, drooping wings, twisting of head and neck, circling, complete stiffness

Swelling around the eyes and neck.

USDA also amended Veterinary Services Memorandum No. 800103 “Reissuance of Product Licenses for Autogenous Products and Guidance Concerning Restriction on the Production and Use of Veterinary Biologics,” seemingly related to concerns about the use of some virulent viruses in autogenous vaccines.

VS Memorandum 800.103 was signed on July 18, 2018, and cancels VS Memorandum 800.103 dated May 28, 2002. This memorandum provides guidance to licensees, permittees, and applicants concerning Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s restrictions on the production, importation, distribution, and use of autogenous biologics. This memorandum is effective immediately.

As described in Memorandum 800.103:  

APHIS restricts the importation and distribution of veterinary biologics from countries known to have exotic diseases, including, but not limited to, foot-and-mouth disease, rinderpest, highly pathogenic avian influenza, swine vesicular disease, Newcastle disease, African swine fever, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy if, in the opinion of APHIS, such products may endanger domestic animals, livestock, or poultry.

In addition, APHIS restricts the production and distribution of veterinary biologics, including, but not limited to, Brucella Abortus Vaccine, Vesicular Stomatitis Vaccine, and certain diagnostic products used in cooperative State/Federal/industry animal disease control and eradication programs, if it determines such products may interfere with disease surveillance and/or control and eradication efforts.

The instant amendments appear to be an attempt to prevent potentially virulent virus from inclusion in autogenous vaccines (a reasonable limitation).  Therefore, field isolates intended for inclusion in such products must be tested at an APHIS-approved laboratory before such use.

Hopefully, this outbreak will be resolved soon and without infecting more backyard or commercial-raised birds.

I have previously described concerns about the lack of validation of genetic tests to refute the pedigree registration status of purebred dogs.  As several courts have held, genetic testing is currently not dispositive of pedigree registration status.  See, e.g., Sandra Shines v. Furry Babies Stratford Square, Inc., No. 13-3592, slip op. at 9 (Ill. 18th Jud. Cir. Jan. 22, 2014) (finding DNA test results unreliable to support plaintiff’s claim that the Cocker spaniel in dispute was a mixed breed).

It looks like I am not the only veterinarian concerned about the injudicious use of genetic testing in animals.  As other veterinarians and scientists recently discussed in Nature’s “Pet genomics medicine runs wild:”

Genetic testing for dogs is big business.  It is too easy for companies to sell false hope, warn Lisa Moses, Steve Niemi and Elinor Karlsson.  They call for regulation.

These authors identify the following deficiencies in animal genetic testing:

  1. Weak science
  2. Lack of validation
  3. Imprecise results or interpretation
  4. Conflicts of interest

They propose the following logical five-step plan to help insure that genetic testing provides animal owners with validated, science-based and valuable information about their pets.

  1. Establish standards
  2. Create guidelines
  3. Share data
  4. Recruit tools and expertise
  5. Education counsellors

The International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) a partnership of national kennel clubs, industry and non-profit organizations, whose mission (described here) “is to facilitate collaboration and sharing of resources to enhance the health, well-being and welfare of pedigreed dogs and all dogs worldwide” congratulated the authors on their commentary and noted that to their own initiative – the Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD) – was engaged in the development of oversight of these tools and emphasized “the phenomenal potential for genetic testing to support health, well-being and welfare in dogs, as well as aspects of human-dog interactions.”

The goal of HGTD is reportedly to improve standardization of, and access to, robust genetic  testing to support health improvements and a sustainable future for healthy dogs.

The use of genetic tests to assist animal breeders in selecting for desired traits is nothing new.

For example, in 2006, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service was studying the use of genetic tests for “beefing” up cattle breeding programs, as reported on USDA’s website.  Even before that, as early as 1998, geneticists, including Mark F. Allan was researching the “genetic regions linking to the twinning trait” in cattle.

Marker-assisted selection will allow breeders to increase the speed and accuracy of traditional assessment methods, but its advantages extend beyond the seedstock industry. Commercial cattle producers would be able to purchase bulls with superior genetics. The desirable characteristics in the livestock would ultimately translate into better products for consumers.

Genetic testing, when used judiciously, has helped animal and human health officials understand the spread of pathogens, such as avian influenza, so that measures can be implemented to prevent or mitigate such spread.

Undoubtedly, the use of genetic testing will continue to advance, and provide benefits to both animals and humans invested in their care.

 

Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson introduced a bill (A4298) that would amend “animal cruelty offenses and penalties concerning animal abandonment and failure to report injuring certain animals with a motor vehicle; increases civil penalties for certain other animal cruelty offenses.”  Like so many bills in New Jersey related to animal issues, including another misguided, S2820 to be discussed later, A4298 would subject many livestock owners, including horse owners, to liability under the law, even though their animals are properly cared for.  Many of these proposed amendments are not consistent with the requirements in the “Humane Treatment of Domestic Livestock,” (the “Humane Standards”), N.J.A.C. §§2:8-1.1 et seq. which the legislature mandated for “domestic livestock,” defined as “cattle, horses, donkeys, swine, sheep, goats, rabbits, poultry, fowl, and any other domesticated animal deemed by the State Board of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, to be domestic livestock for such purposes.”  N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1 (c).

The Humane Standards provide for feeding, watering, keeping, marketing and sale, and care and treatment of livestock, based on animal science and veterinary medicine.  There is a rebuttable presumption that “the raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock in accordance with the standards . . . shall not constitute a violation of any provision of this title involving alleged cruelty to, or inhumane care or treatment of, domestic livestock.”  N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1 (b)(1).  However, when both the statute and regulations were enacted, the Humane Standards were consistent with the statutory provisions, including the definition and provisions related to “necessary care.”  If the statutory provisions of “necessary care” require care inconsistent with and in excess of those required by the Humane Standards (which would occur if A4298 became law), the rebuttable presumption may not be applicable.

This issue is compounded by three major factors:

  1. Those enforcing animal cruelty statutes often believe (erroneously) that any time an animal is injured or becomes sick, the owner or caretaker is at fault and liable under the animal cruelty statutes;
  2. Those enforcing animal cruelty statutes are often inadequately trained in animal care, particularly care involving livestock;
  3. Animal activist groups, opposed to animal use by humans, increasingly target law makers and enforcers, providing them with biased, non-scientifically sound, misleading and inaccurate information and proposed statutory language intended to ban the breeding, sale, and use of animals.

Concerns about A4298 relate largely to the amendments of the definition of “necessary care” described below:

The bill would amend the definition of “necessary care” to provide for “care sufficient to preserve the health and well-being of an animal . . . including:

(2)          open or adequate access to drinkable water of an appropriate temperature* in sufficient quantity and quality to satisfy the animal’s needs;

(3)          access to adequate protection from the weather, including access to an enclosed non-hazardous structure sufficient to protect the animal from the weather that has adequate bedding to protect against cold and dampness, and adequate protection from extreme or excessive sunlight and from overexposure to the sun, heat and other weather conditions;

(4)          veterinary care deemed necessary by a reasonably prudent person to prevent or relieve injury, neglect or disease, alleviate suffering, and maintain health; and

(5)          reasonable access to a clean and adequate exercise area.

Taken one by one, here are the concerns:

  1. What does “open” access to drinkable water mean?

Livestock, including horses, must be provided “daily access to water in sufficient quantity and quality to satisfy the animal’s physiologic needs as evidenced by the animal’s hydration status.”  N.J.A.C. 2:8-2.3.  However, animals do not require access to water 24/7, if that is what the definition of “open” access to water means.

  1. The requirement to provide water “of an appropriate temperature” is unnecessary and can lead to unfounded charges of animal cruelty.

The Humane Standards already require the provision of water of sufficient quality which “refers to the acceptability of water sources for animal consumption with response to the presence of contaminants, accessibility and quantity.  Acceptable water quality means that the water is provided in ways that minimize contamination by urine, feces and other material but is accessible to the animals.  It may be provided from natural sources or manmade containers and must be sufficient quantities to prevent dehydration.  Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, increased capillary refill time of the gums, and/or skin that tents when pinched.  Human standards for potability are not required but there should not be contaminants present in amounts that discourage the animals from drinking adequate amounts.”  N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.2.

Adding a requirement related to the temperature of the water is unnecessary, vague and ambiguous.  Prior attempts to check water temperature have placed livestock in harm’s way.  Agents or officers of the NJSPCA used to attend 4-H fairs regularly and, going livestock pen to livestock pen, would dip their hands in water buckets to “test” the temperature.  Not only was this a completely unscientific method to measure the adequacy of hydration of animals, it presented a huge biosecurity risk through the intentional introduction of potential pathogens from bucket to bucket.

  1. The bill would also require “access to an enclosed non-hazardous structure sufficient to protect the animal from the weather that has adequate bedding to protect against cold and dampness,” a provision that is inconsistent with the Humane Standards.

Each species-based section of the Humane Standards includes provisions relating to housing requirements, which expressly does not require housing in a “non-hazardous structure.”  It does require:

(a) The animal’s environment must provide relief from the elements, such as excessive wind, excessive temperature and excessive precipitation, that result in hyperthermia or hypothermia detrimental to the animal’s health.

(b) Relief under (a) above can be accomplished with natural features of the environment including, but not limited to, trees, land windbreaks, overhangs, or other natural weather barriers or constructed shelters.  N.J.A.C. 2:8-2.4.

  1. The bill would also require animal owners to provide veterinary care deemed necessary by a reasonably prudent person to prevent or relieve injury, neglect or disease, alleviate suffering, and maintain health.

Such provisions could expose any animal owner to liability if they failed to prevent diseases for which vaccines or other preventive treatments are available, but were not administered.  This is not consistent with the basic tenors of veterinary medicine, which requires consideration of the needs of each animal, based on their risk exposure.  The American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Vaccination Guidelines, for example, states:

Not all dogs need every vaccine. Your veterinarian will ask you questions about your dog’s lifestyle, environment, and travel to help tailor the perfect vaccination plan for him. AAHA’s Lifestyle-Based Vaccine Calculator uses factors such as whether your dog visits dog parks, groomers, competes in dog shows, swims in freshwater lakes, or lives on converted farmland to help you and your veterinarian develop your dog’s individualized vaccination plan.

There are “core” and “noncore” vaccines. Vaccinations are designated as either core, meaning they are recommended for every dog, or noncore, which means they are recommended for dogs at risk for contracting a specific disease. However, your veterinarian may reclassify a “noncore” vaccine as “core” depending on your dog’s age, lifestyle, and where you live—for instance, in a region like New England where Lyme disease is prevalent, that vaccine may be considered “core.”

  1. The bill would also require reasonable access to a clean and adequate exercise area.

This is inconsistent with provisions in the Humane Standards that permits housing in caged systems, stabling of horses, etc.

Significant amendments to A4298 and sister bill S2159 are required to allow for the continued existence of animal agriculture and other animal businesses in the State of New Jersey.

 

*Underlined text are proposed amendments.

Recent amendments governing the transportation of agricultural commodities, including livestock, aquaculture and insects, have elicited concerns from cattle, hog, sheep, horse, bee and aquaculture producers, since the time restrictions on transport without rest for the truck drivers would literally stop livestock haulers in their tracks, creating hazards for their live cargo.

These concerns were described on the webpage of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association:

The ELD enforcement date and existing hours of service (HOS) regulations pose significant consequences for the livestock industry. Current federal law limits on-duty time to 14 hours, with a maximum drive time of 11 consecutive hours. The driver must then rest for 10 consecutive hours before returning to duty.  For the great majority of the trips made by our livestock haulers, this is simply not enough drive time to accommodate the realities of hauling live animals across the country. Research also demonstrates that repeated loading and unloading of animals creates stress, harming the livestock as well as endangering the hauler.  Unfortunately, the impending December 18, 2017 electronic logging device (ELD) enforcement date and existing hours of service (HOS) rules may force small business owners out of the marketplace while also having the unintended impact of decreasing driver safety, and jeopardizing the wellbeing of hauled animals if they can no longer be hauled by highly skilled and trained drivers/stockmen.

To address some of these “unintended consequences” the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced the publication of a guidance document, also published as a rule (83 FR 26374, pp 26374-26377) to:

clarify the applicability of the ‘Agricultural commodity’ exception in the ‘Hours of Service (HOS) of Drivers’ regulations.  This regulatory guidance clarifies the exception with regard to: drivers operating unladen vehicles traveling either to pick up an agricultural commodity or returning from a delivery point; drivers engaged in trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity; determining the ‘source’ of agricultural commodities under the exemptions; and how the exception applies when agricultural commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip.

This is the latest of several attempts to clarify the rule as it relates to the transportation of agricultural commodities, including livestock and insects, since its adoption.  Notably, the Electronic Logging Devices are not required for livestock transporters until September 2018.

FMCSA previously published guidance documents at the end of May 2018, including Agricultural Exceptions and Exemptions to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Hours of Service (HOS) and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Rules and Regulatory Guidance: Transportation of Agricultural Commodities including Livestock. 

“This regulatory guidance clarifies that the following operations are not subject to the Hours-of-Service Regulations while operating within 150 air-mile radius of the source of the commodity:”

Drivers operating unladen vehicles traveling either to pick up an agricultural commodity, as defined in 395.2, or returning from a delivery point; and

Drivers engaged in trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity are not subject to the hours of service regulations until they exit the 150 air-mile radius.

The guidance also clarifies that when agricultural commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip only the first loading point can be considered a source, which results in an ongoing concern about how these regulations restrict livestock haulers from loading and delivering livestock without interruption.

To fix some of the unaddressed issues with the law, on June 26, 2018, as reported in a press release on Senator Deb Fischer’s (R-Neb.) website, “[a] bipartisan group of 24 senators . . . filed an amendment to the farm bill that would provide an hours of service exemption for certain agriculture transporters, including livestock haulers, which would provide greater flexibility to operators throughout the country.”

The amendment ‘would ensure that the exemption for operations within a 150 air-mile radius from the source of an agricultural commodity applies year-round and does not vary from one state to another for certain months of the year.  The exemption currently applies to the planting and harvesting period, as determined by each state.  It would also provide an additional 150 air-mile exemption on the back end of a trip, as it currently exists on the front end.’

Before time runs out, it will be important for these issues to be ironed out so livestock can be safely transported without unnecessary and stressful stops.

 

The impact of USDA’s newly adopted final rule to certain exhibitors of farm animals remains unclear.

A positive result of the rule is the definition of “domesticated farm-type animals.”  Farm-type animals are defined as “animals that have historically been kept and raised on farms in the United States.”  Except for the use of the term “domesticated” this definition should be adopted by states to insure that livestock and poultry remain regulated by state and local laws even if owned as “pets” or for “companionship.”

However, the term “domesticated” should be replaced by “domestic,” since courts have held that certain dangerous and exotic animals can be “domesticated” based on the case-specific facts.  See City of Rolling Meadows v. Kyle, 494 N.E.2d 766 (Ill. App. Ct. 1986) (reversing holding that owners monkey was not a domesticated house pet); Turudic v. Stephens, 31 P.3d 465, 471 (Or. Ct. App. 2001) (concluding that “although the cougar may be more exotic than goldfish or hamsters, they are, nevertheless, indisputably family pets.”).  Unfortunately the term “domesticated” instead of “domestic” is used in existing and the amended rule.

Certain exhibitors of ‘domesticated farm-type animals’ are exempt from licensure, including: (1) those who “have a de minimis size of business based on the number of animals maintained, capability of providing adequate care and treatment of such animals, and public oversight . . .”; (2) “country fairs, livestock shows, rodeos, field trials, coursing events . . . and any other fairs or exhibitions intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences, as may be determined by the Secretary”; and (3) owners of “livestock or poultry used or intended for use as food or fiber, or livestock or poultry used or intended for use for improving animal nutrition, breeding, management, or production efficiency, or for improving the quality of food or fiber.”

The amendments exclude from licensure “[a]ny person who maintains a total of eight or fewer pet animals as defined in part 1 of this subchapter, small exotic or wild mammals (such as hedgehogs, degus, spiny mice, prairie dogs, flying squirrels, jerboas, domesticated ferrets, chinchillas, and gerbils), and/or domesticated farm-type animals (such as cows, goats, pigs, sheep, llamas, and alpacas) for exhibition, and is not otherwise required to obtain a license.”

For those who maintain more than eight domesticated farm-type animals, they can also be exempt from licensure if: the animals are used or intended for use as food or fiber; for improving animal nutrition, breeding, management, or production efficiency; or for improving the quality of food or fiber,  even if those animals are exhibited.  However, that was not the holding in In re: Daniel J. Hill and Montrose Orchards, Inc., AWA Docket No. 06-0006, Chief ALJ Hillson (USDA April 18, 2007).

In this case, a Complaint was issued on January 13, 2006, by Kevin Shea, Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture to “Respondents, Daniel J. Hill and Montrose Orchard, Inc., for operating as exhibitors under the Animal Welfare Act without obtaining the requisite license.”

The Findings of Fact, included, in relevant part:

Respondents operate a business which offers the public an opportunity to purchase apples, blueberries, Christmas trees, asparagus, pumpkins and other products. Most products are sold in the Orchard’s gift shop, and some products are also offered to the public on a self-pick basis.

Respondents display to the public a number of animals including, at various times, a pig, a cow, English fallow deer, Barbados sheep and goats. These animals were displayed in large pens. There were signs directing the public to these pens.  There were signs on some of the pens identifying the animal(s) inside.  There were food dispensing machines where members of the public could insert some money and buy food to feed the animals, and a hand washing station near the pens available for public use.

The Court rejected Respondents’ argument that it was exempt from licensure because it made less than $500 from its animal operations.  It also rejected the argument that Respondents were exempt from licensure because “the animals on display at Montrose Orchards were ultimately raised for food.”

Instead the Court held,

Respondents did operate as an exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act.  I find that Respondents’ operations were in interstate commerce or at least affected commerce, and that the display of animals as part of an inducement to visit a commercial operation constituted the charging of compensation.  I find that the exemption for those who make less than $500 from animal operations applies to dealers, and is inapplicable to Respondents.  I find that while the animals on display at Montrose Orchards were ultimately raised for food, the fact that they were on display for extended periods of time still requires an exhibitor’s license. Finally, I impose a civil penalty of $1,000 against Respondents jointly.

Whether and to the extent that similar “exhibitors” would be considered exempt pursuant to the newly adopted rules, remains to be seen.

Perhaps further clarity from USDA-APHIS would be instructive.

On May 17, 2018 a plethora bills were reported out of the New Jersey Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, some with amendments that will benefit animals and their owners if they become law, and others with sorely needed amendments.

Here is a summary of what occurred (as reported on the New Jersey Legislative website):

A781 is a bill that would establish processes for recovering the cost of caring for domestic companion animals involved in animal cruelty violations.  This bill was reported favorably with some amendments, but more should be adopted before further action.

This bill, as amended, provides for the cost of care for animals involved in animal cruelty violations, and establishes a procedure, when the owner of the animal is the alleged violator, for the owner of the animal to pay for the cost of care of the animal. The bill, as amended, specifies that ‘animal’ includes the whole brute creation, but does not include agricultural livestock or domestic livestock.

This amendment protects farmers from the overreaching practices of law enforcement supported by animal activist groups that assist in seizures of animals before the owner(s) has a hearing or opportunity to prove they have not committed alleged acts of animal cruelty.

The groups that house the seized animals charge owners millions of dollars for the “care” of these animals, even though, in some instances, they do not have adequate, if any, training in providing such care. The seized animals suffer from negligent care and sometimes die.  Many animal owners, particularly farmers, would be unable to pay for such costs and therefore forfeit ownership-all before they are actually found guilty of anything.

A1334 is a bill which would add the theft or release of an animal during burglary to the ever-expanding list of provisions that constitute animal cruelty. This amendment is not necessary and makes the cruelty statute even more cumbersome than it currently is.   If someone steals an animal that constitutes theft, for which there are existing legal remedies.  If the thief does not properly care for the animal while in their possession, then the cruelty statute already provides for remedies.  If an animal is released during a burglary and is injured there are also existing provisions in the law that would apply.

A1923, a.k.a. Nosey’s law, was amended before it was reported out of committee, but still requires amendments.  The original intent of this bill was to ban the exhibition of elephants in circuses and traveling zoos.  The amendments to the current version (which is much better than prior versions) largely address concerns of those who humanely exhibit exotic animals.  However, a glaring error remains. The bill defines “[w]ild or exotic animal” as any live animal that is classified into any of the following scientific classifications: (1) Artiodactyla, excluding domestic cattle, bison, water buffalo, yak, zebu, gayal, bali cattle, suidae, sheep, goats, llamas, vicunas, or alpacas; (2) Camelidae . . .”

This effectively excludes llama, vicunas and alpacas from the definition of wild or exotic animals on the one hand, but then includes them since they are members of the Camelidae family.

Additional amendments are clearly required.

A2318 , a bill that would permit any person to break into a vehicle to “rescue” an animal, if they believed that an animal was in danger, was also reported out of committee.  The bill should require any animal so “rescued” to be immediately examined by a licensed veterinarian.  If the rescuer has a good faith belief that the animal is in need of help, then examination by a veterinarian should be mandated.  The owner should pay for that examination if the veterinarian determines the animal’s health was in jeopardy, but if not, the rescuer should have to pay for the veterinary examination.  Adding those provisions may help decrease unnecessary rescues.

Another issue with this bill is that the wording “other circumstances likely to endanger or cause bodily injury or death to the animal” is vague and essentially meaningless.

A3218, a bill that “permits municipalities to contract with animal and humane societies which engage in animal foster care,” was also reported out of committee.  This bill would expose animals and people to unnecessary harm because animal foster care organizations are not regulated in New Jersey.

Finally, A4385, a bill that would require “institutions of higher education, and related research facilities, to offer cats and dogs no longer used for educational, research, or scientific purposes to animal rescue organizations for adoption prior to euthanizing the animals,” was also voted out of committee.  Not only is this bill unnecessary since successful adoption programs from these institutions have been in existence for years, reliance on unregulated animal rescue operations, as above, places animals and people at risk.

It looks like Animal Agriculture Alliance had another stellar stakeholder summit held on May 3-4 in Arlington, Va.

As reported on its website

The future of food, consumer choice, sustainability and the connection farmers and ranchers have with consumers were all topics of discussion on the first day of the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2018 Stakeholders Summit, themed “Protect Your Roots,” at the Renaissance Capital View Hotel in Arlington, Va.

“The conversations are changing about food to include agriculture and the message of farmers,” said Tyne Morgan, host of U.S. Farm Report and Summit moderator. “There are a lot of companies taking notice of the positive side of agriculture and they are starting to tell that story too.”

Speakers explored the increasing importance of food labels to consumers, trends in the food industry, and the future of animal agriculture, a topic commonly discussed amongst farmers and supporting industries who wonder if sufficient numbers from younger generations will take on the huge task of feeding the nation and the world, while providing for the humane care of their stock.

Other speakers presented scientific advances in the field that benefit animals and the environment, but may not always address consumer misconceptions about agricultural practices.  The agriculture community recognizes the increasing importance of educating consumers about the truth and dispelling the myths relating to animal agriculture, broadcasted by animal rights organizations .

The Animal Agriculture Alliance, “an industry-united, nonprofit organization that helps bridge the communication gap between farm and fork” brings these issues front and center on its website. Commonly misunderstood issues about Animal Care, Antibiotics, and Sustainability are discussed along with a number of resources.

The Alliance drafted comprehensive graphics depicting the interactions between animal rights activist groups, who commonly work together to mislead the public and animal welfare-related issues.

Animal Rights Activist Web by Animal Agriculture Alliance

Radical activist organizations are leading the fight to grant animals the same legal rights as humans and eliminate the consumption of food and all other products derived from animals. The ideology of the animal rights movement- that animals are not ours to own, enjoy, or use in any way- is a direct assault on farmers and pet owners. Activists often hide their true agenda in order to gain the support of unknowing pet lovers. Here, you will find current updates from the world of animal rights. The Alliance monitors the activities of these activist groups and seeks to proactively engage in the same areas they target to correct misinformation and tell the true story of agriculture.

Farmers and ranchers have a lot on their plates.  In addition to raising and caring for the animals that feed the world, they must learn how to address attacks by animal rights organizations intent on their demise, and more importantly learn to connect with consumers who have been mislead by activists.

Organizations like the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and others like Protect the Harvest, should be commended for work they do to dispel those myths.