CDFA Kills Negative Tested Cockatiel

This CANNOT be allowed to happen!

San Gabriel Valley Tribune - CA

Article Last Updated: Monday, December 30, 2002 - 9:08:13 PM MST

Officials kill pet bird in bid to halt disease
Section of shelter quarantined to stem Newcastle spread
By Ben Baeder and Mike Sprague , Staff Writers


PICO RIVERA -- Agriculture officials are taking no prisoners in their war to eradicate the bird-killing Exotic Newcastle Disease, destroying a Pico Rivera man's pet cockatiel Monday and putting under quarantine portions of an animal shelter where confiscated fighting cocks are being housed.

Also Monday, state and federal officials expanded an Exotic Newcastle Disease quarantine area to Orange and San Diego counties. All of Los Angeles County and parts of Riverside County already are under quarantine for the disease, officials said.

"It shows how serious the situation is,' said Capt. Aaron Reyes of the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in Downey, which had the rear portion of its shelter put under quarantine by agriculture officials.

SEAACA officials Saturday confiscated about 20 chickens after authorities in Montebello broke up a cock fight that was taking place at stables in the 300 block of Bluff Road.

A task force of state and federal agriculture officials working to stem the Newcastle Disease outbreak that has already prompted officials to kill more than 100,000 birds in California since October then ordered part of the SEAACA shelter quarantined. Officials said they feared some of the fighting birds might be infected.

"The current climate with the Newcastle issue is extremely serious and potentially volatile,' Reyes said. "The Newcastle disease is fatal and can wipe out an entire poultry operation. It could cost the economy millions of dollars if not dealt with.'

That is exactly what task force officials are trying to do, said Mike McBride, a veterinarian for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"We're getting a jump on it this time,' he said. "With the discovery of the disease in the Riverside flock last week, there will definitely be some changes in enforcement.'

In the 1970s, the disease caused officials to kill 12 million birds in the United States, according to the USDA. More than 100,000 birds in the Riverside flock were killed last week, according to Larry Hawkins, a spokesman for the USDA.

On Monday, officials showed up unannounced at the Pico Rivera home of Larry Benitez. They had a warrant allowing them to confiscate and kill Benitez's cockatiel, Brianna. Benitez said his bird was tested during inspections about three weeks ago and was found to be negative for the disease.

"It doesn't make sense,' Benitez said.

But earlier this month, officials slaughtered Benitez's neighbor's 42 chickens after discovering one had the disease.

The disease is rarely harmful to humans, but is lethal to most domestic birds, according to the EPA.

It is most highly concentrated in the bodily discharges of sick birds. It can be passed easily from bird to bird and also can be carried on shoes, clothes or in manure. It is highly contagious.

"Exotic Newcastle is so virulent that many birds die without showing any clinical signs,' according to a USDA Web site. "A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur in unvaccinated poultry flocks. Exotic Newcastle can infect and cause death even in vaccinated poultry.'

The warrant served on Benitez has his neighbors on Durfee Avenue, just south of the Whittier Narrows Dam, worried. Many of them own chickens and other birds.

Melissa Montion, who lives closer to the slaughtered flock than Benitez, is worried about Gus and Doc, her two red-headed parrots.

"They told us we might be next,' she said.

The neighborhood is plastered with signs telling people keep their birds caged until further notice.

Jim Campos, who lives down the street, has spent 20 years breeding tiny bantam chickens. He has 92, and hasn't heard from agriculture officials since they inspected his flock three weeks ago.

"This is my hobby,' he said. "But I remember what happened in the 1970s. I know they have to stop it. If they killed that cockatiel, I have the feeling they're coming.'

Ben Baeder can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3024, or by e-mail at . Mike Sprague can be reached at Ext. 3022 or by e-mail at

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