The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) recently provided guidance to small ruminant producers and their veterinarians in an article titled “Extralabel drug use (ELDU) in small ruminants” in JAVMA, Vol 253, No. 8, Oct. 15, 2018, pp 1001-1009.

FARAD is a university-based national program that serves as the primary source for scientifically-based recommendations regarding safe withdrawal intervals of drugs and chemicals in food-producing animals. As such, FARAD is a key resource for protection of our nation’s food supply, including meat, milk and eggs, against accidental contamination of animal-derived foods with violative residues of drugs, pesticides or other agents that could compromise food safety.”

FARAD regularly provides guidance to the food animal producing industry and veterinarians regarding “the use of therapeutic drugs, pesticides and other agents that improve overall animal health and promote safe, efficient and humane production practices.”

The purpose of its latest digest, as stated, “was to provide US veterinarians guidance regarding ELDU in small ruminants. The lack of FDA-approved drugs for sheep and goats frequently necessitates ELDU in those species. When the FDA approves a drug for use in a particular species, it establishes a tolerance or that drug in the various tissues or products (eg, milk or eggs) of that species that might be consumed by people. When a drug not labeled for use in a small ruminant is administered in an extralabel manner, there is a zero tolerance for residues of the parent drug or its metabolites in the edible tissues or products of treated animals, and detection of the parent drug or metabolites in any product marketed for human consumption is considered a violation and subject to regulatory action. Given the lack of tolerance and pharmacokinetic and tissue depletion data for many drugs administered in an extralabel manner to small ruminants, extended meat and milk WDIs are generally required to ensure that drug residues are undetectable. Veterinarians need to be cognizant of the requirements for legal ELDU in food-animal species to safeguard the human food supply while continuing to promote the health and welfare of small ruminants.”

As a former owner of a veterinary large animal practice in which 50% of my patients were small ruminants (goats, sheep, alpaca and llama), it was imperative to be able to prescribe or administer drugs in an extralabel manner to provide humane care and prevent animal suffering.

Extralabel use means actual use or intended use of a drug in an animal in a manner that is not in accordance with the approved labeling. This includes, but is not limited to, use in species not listed in the labeling, use for indications (disease or other conditions) not listed in the labeling, use at dosage levels, frequencies, or routes of administration other than those stated in the labeling, and deviation from the labeled withdrawal time based on these different uses.  21 CFR 530.3.

Some of these uses have included medications added to commercial feeds, that are now governed under the Veterinary Feed Directive that FDA enforces for use in major, but not minor species.

According to guidance from FDA, “many commercial medical feeds that require a VFD are not approved for use in minor species,” defined by FDA as all species other than cattle, horses, swine, chickens, turkeys, dogs, and cats.  Compliance Policy Guide Sec. 615.115 Extralabel Use of Medicated Feeds for Minor Species.  A veterinarian may consider ELDU of medicated feed in minor species if:

There are no approved treatment options available;

The health of the animals is threatened; and

Failure to treat the animals would result in suffering or death.

The veterinarian must provide a written recommendation that includes the medical rationale for ELDU of medicated feed.

Before a veterinarian can provide such professional guidance, a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) must exist.  While state laws govern the practice of veterinary medicine, including such relationships, FDA has inserted itself in the equation by identifying which states do not require the elements of a VCPR that FDA considers sufficient for the purposes of enforcing its Veterinary Feed Directive and other federal laws.

These multilayered state and federal laws can be difficult for veterinarians and small ruminant producers to decipher—hence the necessity of FARAD and other agencies to provide more specific guidance.

In a bulletin published on September 25, 2018, USDA announced “four overarching goals for advancing animal disease traceability to protect the long-term health, marketability and economic viability of the U.S. livestock industry.”

Advance the electronic sharing of data among federal and state animal health officials, veterinarians and industry; including sharing basic animal disease traceability data with the federal animal health events repository (AHER).

Use electronic ID tags for animals requiring individual identification in order to make the transmission of data more efficient;

Enhance the ability to track animals from birth to slaughter through a system that allows tracking data points to be connected; and

Elevate the discussion with States and industry to work toward a system where animal health certificates are electronically transmitted from private veterinarians to state animal health officials.

Animal disease traceability has been a long-term goal of state and federal officials, as well as farmers and ranchers interested in protecting their livestock from the spread of contagious, infectious diseases.

A State-Federal Working Group reviewed the existing program and potential future goals, the results of which are published in a Summary of Program Reviews and Proposed Directions, dated April 2018.

The working group expressed general concerns about, in part: (1) confidentiality and security of information systems; (2) producer liability based on disease transmission, and animal and human injury resulting from applying and reading identification tags; (3) cost; (4) lack of proportionality of scale for small compared to large producers; and (5) beef feeder cattle under versus over the age of 18 months; practicality of identifying livestock at birth premises; flexibility, among other issues.

There was particular concern over electronic ID (EID), related technology and costs:

  • “If radio frequency ID (RFID) is to be utilized, the establishment of standards, including one technology (low-frequency (LF) vs ultra-high frequency (UHF)) is critical. Most stakeholders supported a dual technology tag as an interim measure.
  • The infrastructure must be in place to support the transition to EID.
  • Cost remains the primary concern of producers and representatives from other sectors of the industry for both the reader infrastructure and tags; however, the use of EID would provide substantial savings due to the increased efficiency associated with the technology.
  • Availability and use of electronic forms, in particular, electronic ICVIs. Obtaining records electronically would decrease cost and improve the completeness and accuracy of the data. Additionally, retiring animal numbers at slaughter would be feasible, where it has been cost-prohibitive with visual-only tags.
  • A cost analysis on metal NUES tags to show the full cost of tags when working cattle to manually record ID numbers (labor, stress and shrink, injury, etc.), as well as their limitations relative to traceability, e.g., tag retirement, to more accurately illustrate the 14 costs of both visual-only and EID tags.
  • Proportionally higher implementation costs for smaller producers, who sell direct to consumers and believe their livestock are already highly traceable.”

USDA’s current goals build on its final rule adopted on January 9, 2013, “Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate,” which requires cattle, bison, horses and other equine species, poultry, sheep and goats, swine, and captive cervids moving interstate to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection (ICVI) or other documentation, with limited exemptions.

The proposals from the Working, as published in the report, include:

  1. Maintain the policy that traceability regulations do not apply to interstate movements to a custom slaughter facility in accordance with Federal and State regulations for preparation of meat.
  2. Maintain the current population of livestock covered by the official ID requirements. The ADT rule will continue to include:
  • All dairy
  • Beef cattle > 18 months of age
  • All rodeo and exhibition cattle.
  1. Cattle should be identified to their birth premises , thus the official ID records must provide birth premises information for the animal. APHIS should revise Federal regulations to include interstate commerce and the appropriate authority – either USDA or State officials – should establish regulations that trigger official ID requirements at:
  • Change of ownership
  • First point of commingling
  • Interstate movement (may reflect no sale and no commingling).
  1. The United States must move toward an EID system for cattle with a target implementation date of January 1, 2023. A comprehensive plan is necessary to address the multitude of very complex issues related to the implementation of a fully integrated electronic system. A specialized industry-lead task force with government participation should develop the plan, with a focus on several key objectives (see report for specifics).
  2. APHIS and States must make the advancement of electronic records an immediate high priority. The enhancements recommended below would increase the ease of collecting data in a standardized format and subsequently provide access to accurate data in near real-time, greatly enhancing the effectiveness of U.S. traceability and disease control programs. (See report for specifics).
  3. Enhanced enforcement of existing regulations.
  4. APHIS should continue the efforts of the State/Federal Slaughter Plant Working Group to improve the rates of ID collection and correlation at slaughter.
  5. APHIS and States need to establish a partnership with industry that would enable utilization of private information systems for disease surveillance and response events. Ideally, establish a communication protocol between the private systems and an animal disease traceability portal that would allow producer data to be maintained in the private systems and made available to animal health officials only when needed for animal disease control and response. Producers would have the choice to maintain their data in a private or public system. APHIS and the States would continue to protect producer data held in their systems and use it only for disease response. (See report for additional details).
  6. Review and update existing exemptions for official identification requirements.
  7. Concerns about electronic ICVIs and other electronic movement records are a high priority . . . Stakeholders support consistent requirements; however, the State of destination should be responsible for determining the documents appropriate for collection and compliance of key traceability components for livestock arriving to that State.
  8. Address lack of uniformity of state importation regulations. 9 CFR Part 86 should provide the national standards for official ID and movement documentation. APHIS should continue revision of the regulations to increase standardization considering that eliminating various exemptions will lessen confusion and State differences.
  9. The working group feels there is value in considering a standard, or uniform, official eartag to increase awareness and understanding that it is unlawful to remove the tag. APHIS should conduct a study to determine the potential advantages and disadvantages of having one national ID eartag for cattle. The study should examine the merit a standardized tag might bring to ease of recognizing official tags and its effect on compliance. The study should also include cost comparisons of the use of numerous tag styles, sizes, etc. versus one standard, uniform tag. APHIS should review this information and, if having one uniform tag has significant advantages, publish the one tag concept for public comment through the Federal Register. The actual change, if pursued, would require rulemaking.
  10. The ability to maintain the identity of imported cattle is essential. As such, the working group recommends that APHIS allow the retagging of such animals with an official EID tag by revising the traceability regulation to define an “Import Tag” (with a specific range of AINs and tag color). For example, APHIS could reserve a range of 840 numbers starting with “8409” for use on these tags. To help distinguish “Import Tags” that have a panel component, the panel piece of the tag should include the text “Import”. This ID option would clearly identify animals tagged with an 840 Import Tag after importation to the United States; provide producers the option to use compatible EID technologies as preferred; and allows for re-tagging visual only tagged imported cattle with an 840 EID Import Tag (even if the visual only official tag of the exporting country is in the ear). Producers using UHF technology could use USDA approved UHF 840 tags or the USDA approved UHF NUES tags when the State Animal Health Official authorizes this option. The recordkeeping requirements for tagging imported animals would remain the same as currently written in 9 CFR Part 86 for retagging and adding a second official tag. The working group recommends that APHIS prohibit the use of visual only 840 tags in imported animals.
  11. Considerations related to official identification of beef feeders to include beef cattle under 18 18 month of age after additional analysis.

“Moving forward, USDA wants to continue to build on the current momentum around animal disease traceability, and will begin implementing these ADT goals starting in fiscal year 2019.”

State Departments of Emergency Management prepare and respond to natural disasters by implementing the orchestrated emergency response plans, which state, federal and non-profit partners help develop over the years. These plans, that also include responses to the intentional or accidental introduction of highly pathogenic zoonotic or strictly animal diseases, are considered ever-green and updated based on emerging technology and review of tabletop exercises.

For those farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, zoos, aquaria, equine facilities, animal shelters, pet stores, biomedical research facilities and companion animal owners in need of assistance following Hurricane Florence and then Hurricane Michael in the South East, I hope the following resources can be of assistance.

South Carolina

On October 8, 2018, South Carolina State Veterinarian Boyd H. Parr, DVM implemented “temporary exceptions to the regulations governing the importation and exportation of animals coming into and leaving South Carolina as a result of Hurricane Michael.  All animals moving under these exceptions are expected to return to their state of origin no later than 10/31/18 unless this order is extended or revised.”  The exceptions, set forth at the Clemson Livestock Poultry Health website, permit interstate movement without a Coggins test result form or Certificate of Veterinary Inspection.

A comprehensive list of resources are available on Clemson’s Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery website, including, for example, links to (1) Hurricane Guidance for Livestock Owners; (2) Disaster Plan for Horses; (3) Emergency Equine Stable Sites; Flooding Hay Request Form; (4) Animal/Agriculture Emergency Support Function (ESF)-17 Ag Damage Assessment Information Form; and (5) Business Continuity for Agriculture/Secure Food Supply Plans.

In the face of Hurricane Florence, South Carolina previously suspended certain motor vehicle requirements, including, “such federal rules and regulations, in conjunction with S.C. Code Ann. §§ 56-5-4010 et seq., which establish size, weight, and load requirements for South Carolina highways, for, in relevant part, “Persons and vehicles transporting livestock, poultry, food for livestock and poultry, and crops ready to be harvested.”

Georgia

In Georgia, the Department of Agriculture has a Hurricane Response Center available on its website that also provides links to relevant information, including tips for those impacted by the storm.  Guidance is available related to livestock, pets, food, fuel, crops and other important information, such as:

0/12/2018 Commissioner Black Gets First Glimpse of Hurricane Michael’s Damage

10/12/2018 Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool

10/11/2018 Hurricane Michael Devastates Georgia’s Agricultural Industry

10/10/2018 Disaster Assistance Fact Sheet

10/10/2018 Press Release: Georgia Department of Agriculture Responds to Threat of Hurricane Michael

10/10/2018 Hurricane Michael: Animal Interstate Movement Requirements for Entry into Georgia from Florida are Temporarily Suspended UPDATED!

10/09/2018 Georgia National Fair Press Release: Fair Closed Wednesday October 10th, 2018

10/09/2018 Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 92 counties in Georgia

Resources for Animal Food Producers in Flooded Areas of Gulf Coast

Like South Carolina, Georgia  and Florida temporarily suspended their interstate importation requirements for the transportation of animals.

Florida

Florida, with its long history of exemplary emergency preparedness and response, continues to implement those plans, including “[s]upporting pet-friendly shelters, agricultural producers, and local communities with various needs for supplies, transportation and staffing.”

North Carolina

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, N.C. State University Cooperative Extension and N.C. Cattlemen’s Association issued a warning on Sept. 22, 2018 to its constituents that “an individual was offering operational recovery assistance to producers with the claim that he had been authorized by the South Carolina state government. A background check on this individual proved this to be false.”

We are asking that if you are contacted by organizations or individuals that you do not know and you have a concern about their legitimacy, to please get the name of the individual/team, phone numbers, emails, license plate numbers, etc. and share that with your county Emergency Management Services.

USDA

A long-time partner with state departments of agriculture in emergency response, USDA provides resources and information on its website.  Its role  is “to provide food, emergency housing, community, as well as farmer and rancher assistance to individuals and small businesses affected by severe storms and flooding . . . [and] to work with states affected by severe storms and flooding regarding requests for various assistance, waivers and flexibilities in administering federal nutrition assistance programs.”  USDA also provides link to FEMA’s app for shelter and related information, as well as disaster assistance programs for farmers.

FDA

FDA, concerned about contamination of crops from floodwaters, provides relevant guidance on its website, “Crops Harvested from Flooded Fields Intended for Animal Food: Questions and Answers.”  In some cases, and with specific FDA approval, crops intended for human consumption can be used for animal feed.

The FDA will work with producers to consider requests to recondition an adulterated crop into animal food on a case-by-case basis. FDA’s compliance guide (CPG 675.200) provides a step-by-step process for reconditioning requests.

AVMA

The AVMA helps veterinarian impacted by disasters and provides emergency preparedness guidance on its website.

Hopefully, everyone impacted by these recent storms will find these and other resources helpful as they rebuild their properties, care for their animals, and recover.

Typically, animal diseases have a seasonal presence.  For example, avian influenza, like other influenza viruses prefer cold damp conditions.  On the other hand, viruses transmitted by mosquitoes (arboviruses), including Equine Encephalitis virus and West Nile virus , are diagnosed when the mosquito population has peaked, often in in mid-late summer and early fall.

In addition to the seasonal prevalence of arboviruses in the United States, USDA APHIS has been tracking and reporting on an outbreak of Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) in California, first identified in May 18, 2018.

USDA has confirmed 156 cases of vND in California, 102 in San Bernardino County, 22 in Riverside County, 31 in Los Angeles County and 1 in Ventura County.

To date the virus has been confirmed predominately in backyard exhibition chickens.  Backyard mixed species birds, backyard hobby turkeys and one live bird market have also been infected.  Virus has not been identified in commercial flocks to date, and state and federal animal health officials are emphasizing the importance of implementing enhances biosecurity practices to prevent additional transmission to other premises.  The last confirmed case was reported on October 4, 2018.

Across the globe, African Swine Fever, a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of wild and domestic suids, has been spreading in Asia and across Europe.

As reported by USDA, China first reported the outbreak on August 3, 2018, “on a domestic swine farm in Shenyang, Liaoning Province with an onset date of August 1.”  This disease, like other highly pathogenic diseases of livestock and poultry are reportable to the World Animal Health Organization (“OIE”).

In addition to China, since the beginning of 2018, ASF has been reported in the following countries: Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Poland, Czech Repulic, Belgium, Russia, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine and Chad, as reported by OIE.

USDA reported that it met with the swine industry on September 5, 2018 “to discuss protections USDA has in place to prevent the introduction of African Swine Fever (ASF) to the United States as well as activities to enhance those protections.”

USDA provided a summary of recommended enhancement activities-“USDA industry prevention points.

To prevent the introduction of this virus to the United States, USDA has: scheduled biweekly calls for updates and discussion; will review state authorized waste feeding of swine to determine whether inspection of licensed facilities should be enhanced; reviewed the importation of potentially infected meat, casing, and feed; asked Custom and Border Protection to “target its inspections of passengers and cargo coming from ASF positive regions.”

According to a report by Rabobank, African Swine Fever Shifts Global Protein Picture,

These disruptions could open export opportunities for U.S., Canadian and Brazilian pork producers, including initial panic buying. However, Rabobank explained, the potential spread of the disease throughout Asia and/or Europe also poses a great risk to North American and South American producers.

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 not 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.