Monday, February 03, 2003
Copyright Las Vegas Review-Journal

Woman's pet birds eradicated

USDA gets court order to gas poultry in fight against virus


When the federal government wanted to kill dozens of Jill Duncan's pet birds, she put up a fight.

Now she is left to ponder just how quickly she was defeated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Trying to thwart a potential poultry crisis, USDA workers arrived at Duncan's home on Saturday afternoon with a court order and fatally gassed 64 of her domesticated chickens, ducks and geese, she said.

"I still have a pig," said the 56-year-old, who lives in an area east of North Las Vegas, where USDA officials have euthanized 1,535 domesticated birds in recent weeks. "But I feel awful. I'll never be the same."

The USDA has euthanized the domesticated birds, agency officials have said, after discovering birds that were infected with the deadly Exotic Newcastle virus on numerous properties in Duncan's neighborhood. The virus is not harmful to humans but has ravaged poultry industry sales in the past.

Duncan said none of her animals appeared to be sick. She said the agency declined to test the animals for the disease because it would have been too costly. She was the only one of 82 owners to challenge USDA officials to get a court order for their mission.

On Saturday, she sat by and watched her pets die.

USDA officials showed up in white uniforms and gloves, Duncan said, and one by one trapped the animals and placed them in a small barrel with carbon dioxide gas.

After the mission was complete, Duncan said parting USDA officials approached her and her husband. "They gave us their condolences," she said, "and wanted to shake our hands. I'm so sorry that I did."

Duncan said two of the dead animals, a goose and a duck named "Daffy," had been with her for 20 years. She is left with the pig, a dog and five cats.

"I wouldn't get another animal like that as long as I live," Duncan said of domesticated birds. "Because they would come and do the same thing."

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