Media Coverage
March 15, 2003 to March 31, 2003
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San Jose Mercury News, CA

Posted on Mon, Mar. 31, 2003
Bird owners fight California anti-poultry disease efforts
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Bird owners have asked a court to stop the state from slaughtering birds kept as pets or for show without substantiating that they are at risk of infection by exotic Newcastle disease, which threatens California's poultry industry.

In a Superior Court filing on behalf of 13 bird owners, two animal rights groups and one business, attorney William Dailey urged the court to order Gov. Gray Davis to rescind his January emergency order calling for the eradication of exotic Newcastle disease through the "expeditious disposal of poultry."

The petitioners asked the court to order Davis and government agencies to establish additional due-process protections that will prevent authorities from "arbitrarily and capriciously slaughtering pet, companion or show birds."

"We're asking the court to tell the government to do things differently and to obey the constitution," Dailey said. "Over 3 million birds were slaughtered to date just in California and most of them weren't infected. We're trying to get them to revise their protocol so they stop slaughtering pets unnecessarily."

Exotic Newcastle disease spreads among flocks through droppings, breath and eggs. Humans can carry the virus on their shoes and clothes, but it poses a very minimal risk to human health.

Nearly 3.3 million birds have been slaughtered in California since last fall in an attempt to eradicate the illness. The disease, first detected in commercial and backyard flocks of chickens in California last October, has spread to Nevada and Arizona.

Dailey said 800 healthy pet birds belonging to five owners cited in his complaint were wrongly slaughtered by the government task force assigned to eradicate the disease. He said hundreds of other healthy pet birds belonging to the 16 petitioners listed in his motion, including parrots, doves, pigeons, geese, ducks and chickens are at risk of being killed, as are numerous exotic show birds.

"In an unscientific effort to prevent the spreading of END (exotic Newcastle disease), the task force kills all birds in an area where END has been allegedly located, regardless of the bird's status as a healthy, disease-free bird," Dailey said in the complaint filed earlier this month and amended last week.

The motion accuses Davis and the task force of "repeated abuses of constitutional rights and cruelty toward citizens and violations of animal anti-cruelty statutes."

Steve Lyle, director of public affairs for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said his office planned to move for an immediate dismissal of the legal action.

"We disagree with the allegations in the strongest possible terms," he said. "A state of emergency exists for exotic Newcastle disease in the state of California because it's the most infectious and deadly bird disease in the world."

He said out of 12,000 face-to-face contacts so far between homeowners and task force officials, there were fewer than 30 complaints. At least two task force members were dismissed due to complaints that were verified. "We have zero tolerance for misconduct on the task force," Lyle said.

He said the task force was finding new outbreaks of the disease daily at residential properties and occasionally on commercial premises, but it did seem that the pace at which the disease was spreading might be slowing. "That is certainly true in our border states of Arizona and Nevada. It looks like they've stemmed the spread of the disease."

Dailey alleged that the task force automatically kills any bird located within a one-kilometer radius of an infection site without determining if there is evidence of infection or verifying if the bird owner took biosecurity precautions.

Lyle said that under a policy unveiled last month, birds located in a quarantined area may be spared if the owners can prove that they have taken measures to protect their birds from infection.

No date has been set for a hearing on Dailey's filing.

Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman, IA

Poultry video

An Iowa State University veterinarian has released a video about a disease that is impacting the California poultry industry.

"Exotic Newcastle Disease and the California Outbreak" is a 53-minute presentation by Dr. Darrell Trampel recorded March 4. It is available on DVD or VHS videocassette.

To order, contact Donna Wilson in ISU's College of Veterinary Medicine at 515-294-6988 or by e-mail at

Antelope Valley Press Saturday, March 29, 2003

NOT ONLINE - See Scan at (LINK)

Exotic Newcastle disease reaches plateau

By Heather Lake
Vally Press Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Exotic Newcastle disease, the deadly virus that is wiping out the poultry industry in Southern California, probably surfaced as many as six months before it was discovered last October, task force members said Thursday.

Close to 3 million chickens, pigeons, geese and even pet birds, among others, have either succumbed to the deadly disease or have been euthanized by task force members in the eradication effor that, to date has cost upwards of $70 million.

On Thursday, at a public meeting held in Lancaster, task force members said they can't honestly say the end is in sight but, where just a few weeks ago they said the disease's wrath had not yet "peaked," they are now saying it has reached a "plateau."

Progress thus far was credited to community members cooperating with the task force and reporting incidents of the disease.

"We have no chance of success unless we gain your support," said Jack Mortenson, a veterinarian and member of the task force.

The dry hot months ahead in the Antelope Valley are being counted on by task force members to help eradicate the disease which thrives in moist climates.

In the meantime, they say they are doing everything they can to get a step ahead of the disease. In doing so they have stirred up emotions among bird owners, Some have reported that task force members are treating bird owners rudely and aggressively and accusing them of wrongful practices.

And while task force members insist they are playing by the rules, Mortenson offered up what appeared to be a concession.

"We don't always remember our manners...I am sure there are examples where we have forgotten to be courteous," Mortenson said.

On Tuesday, the ire of the bird owners group manifested itself in a lawsuit filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court.

The lawsuit, naming the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Gov. Gray Davis and the task force, was filed by several local groups and individuals including Shareen and Joe Morris whose depopulation experience first captured the attention of local media.

In it the petitioners, represented by William H. Dailey, an attorney in West Hollywood, allege task force members "bullied citizens into allowing their pets to be killed...(through) a combination of threats and refusal to inform (them) of their legal rights as required by the task force protocols."

On Thursday, William Klein, a forerunner in an attack on protocol he calls "obscenely antiquated and convenient," accused task force members of reckless and unjustifiably killing birds not proven to be deseased.

Task force member Kevin Varner said it is the task force's policy not to re-test birds on a property where the disease has already been discovered.

On premises that are deemed a dangerous contact, generally a one-kilometer radius of the infected property, the policy is to swab five birds of each species to test for the virus.

"We don't take birds off any premises that we don't classify as a dangerous contact," Varner said, adding that 50% of birds taken from such areas have tested positive.

Birds infected with Newcastle show varying symptoms depending on factors such as their species and age. With an incubation period of two to 15 days in poultry, signs of illness include depression, respiratory ailments, swollen eyes, while and green diarrhea, tremors, paralysis and twisting of head and neck. In cage birds, signs may be similar but these species are more likely to be carriers and shedders of the disease which can last for months.

Bird owners are being urged to exercise biosecurity measures including isolation, traffic control and sanitation.

In response to complaints that some local pet stores carrying birds are not practicing even basic biosecurity, task force members suggested refusing to shop in those stores and spreading the word to others in need of pet supplies to put pressure to comply on store owners.

As always, bird owners who even suspect their birds have been exposed or who see signs of illness are asked to notify the task force immediately. Compensation is made for birds that are euthanized but not for birds already dead from the disease.

The task force can be reached by calling (800)491-1899. For more information check out the Web site at

Union-Tribune, CA

By Ed Zieralski
March 30, 2003

Being an old, long graybeard, Jack Bowen knew what to look for at daybreak yesterday during the early moments of a very cold and windy spring turkey hunting opener.

"It came in to our decoys, I saw the beard, and I shot," said Bowen, 60, of Ramona, whose hunting partner Chuck Birdsall of Poway drew a lottery hunt at Lake Sutherland during the National Wild Turkey Federation and San Diego Water Utilities Department's Turkey Tune-Up almost a month ago.

To Bowen's surprise, the beard belonged to a hen that had been hobbling on one leg. Hens are protected during the spring hunt, except for the small percentage that have the misfortune to grow a beard.

And this one sported a beauty, a breast hair strap stretching 7 inches long. Only birds with beards protruding from their breast feathers are legal to shoot in the spring.

"I'll eat it because my father taught me to always eat what I shoot," Bowen said. "I'll keep the beard, though."

Bowen shot his bird at 6 a.m., and a few hours later Birdsall, 36, of Poway, downed a 16.15-pound jake with a 33/4 -inch beard with a shot from 25 yards. They hunted at the back of Santa Ysabel Creek, flowing with water just now and slowly raising the level of Sutherland.

"He saw the decoys and came over," Birdsall said. "But he fed along the way, didn't seem to have any particular agenda. When it got to within 25 yards, I shot."

Birdsall was surprised that the birds were as active, what with high winds blasting the backcountry. Lake Sutherland reservoir keeper Diane Dine showed where the dock had broken apart from the wind, and concessionaire Jeff DeMeester and his wife, Barbara, did their best to hold on atop the hill overlooking the lake.

"I was pessimistic about getting a bird today," Birdsall said. "The wind was howling, but it didn't seem to bother these birds. I was surprised."

Scott Cannon of Rancho Peñasquitos, hunting on private land in Julian, shot a jake shortly after sunrise.

"I have three words for today – wind, wind, wind," Cannon said. "I've never hunted in windy conditions like this. I really had to hammer a box call to be heard over the wind."

At Henshaw, lake manager Al Socin said the boat dock was rammed into the shoreline, and power was out in the area because of several fallen trees.

The wind chased Robert A. Schultz and his son, Robert E., back to the Lake Henshaw Restaurant, where they had breakfast and swapped tales with other hunters.

"It was just too windy and cold," Robert E. Schultz said. "The birds we roosted the other night will be there tomorrow."

But the wind didn't stop Josh Kettl, 11, of Escondido, from shooting a jake on public land near Palomar Mountain. His father, Robert Kettl, called it in, and the youngster dispatched it, one shot.

"He did a lot better than the old guys in the group," Robert Kettl said. "I missed one, and so did my hunting buddy (Jim Hendricks, also of Escondido). Last year Josh missed a tom with a 10-inch beard, shot over its head. But this year he hit it. I'm proud of him."

Kettl said he heard a lot of gobbling at dawn, something that other hunters didn't experience or didn't hear because of the wind.

Chris Hall, a seasoned hunter from Imperial Beach, called in three hens on private property in the Lake Henshaw area.

"Couldn't get a gobble, not one," he said. "But I found out what it's like to get cussed out by a hen when I was scouting. I called a hen in, and she lit me up."

Seems the hens in the county were on the aggressive side for most of the day. Mariano Busalacchi of San Diego, hunting public land in the Julian area, shot a bearded bird around 9:30 a.m., only to discover the 5-inch beard belonged to a hen.

Not all the hens in the backcountry had a bad day, though.

Lake Henshaw Restaurant was overrun by hunters, filtering in throughout the morning, most still carrying every shell they left home with that morning.

"If I would have known this many men were going to come in here this morning, I would have done my hair," said Christine Herod, one of the Henshaw waitresses. "They were coming out of the woodwork, coming in from everywhere there for a while."

Funny how that goes. Good food, hot coffee and some smiling waitresses – no calls were necessary to draw a load of hungry, gobbling toms to the Henshaw eatery.

The state's turkey season, now open, goes to May 4, with a bag limit of one bearded bird per day, three for the season. Hunting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. daily.

Also, a state and federal-imposed quarantine because of the threat of Exotic Newcastle Disease makes it illegal to transport across state lines a bird shot in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

North County Times, CA

Newcastle panel seeks help from postal workers in spotting backyard chickens
Staff Writer

Post office workers throughout the areas in Southern California hit by the deadly Exotic Newcastle disease have been asked by the state and federal task force to keep an eye out on their routes for homes with chickens, and to report their findings to the panel.

Such a survey was actually completed in March, and the report was sent by e-mail to the task force. While the agency has refused to answer questions about the survey ---- or to acknowledge its existence ---- postal officials themselves have freely discussed the request and the report, or survey.

One said that in his 18 years in the U.S. Postal Service's Southern California region, he had never had such a request to do a survey or to check up on residents for any purpose. He said his views on the requested survey were "mixed," but that a number of letter carriers said they resented being asked to "spy" on homes on their routes.

Many North County bird owners said they were also uneasy about postal workers reporting about their chickens.

"Is it really their business to be checking what people are doing in their back yards? I don't think it is," said a Vista man who has several species of birds and did not want to be identified. "And I'm sure the postal people are probably like, 'I have enough to do without this.'"

Details of the survey were sketchy. Early reports had it that the carriers were asked to pinpoint addresses of chicken owners. This could not be confirmed. Postal officials said that carriers had been asked, verbally, to note only "areas" or ZIP codes on their routes where chicken owners reside. These officials said they did not have a copy of the report, but George Brook, manager of customer service for the Orange Glen post office in Escondido, described how the carriers reported the information they'd gathered.

"It wasn't a scenario that said, 'What addresses in your route have chickens?' It was, 'How many homes have chickens, 1, 2, 0?" he said.

Mike Cannone, spokesman for the Southern California postal district, said the post office tallied the collected figures for an overall number of homes per ZIP code, and that those numbers were turned over to the task force.

"It was a cumulative total," Cannone said, "so there's no way anybody could go to Escondido and nail it down to this particular carrier route and say, OK, in between this block and this block there's 100 chickens. There's no way they could do that. The only information the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) is going to get from this is the number of deliveries that we go to that carriers estimate have chickens on a ZIP code level. It doesn't go any finer than that."

A veterinarian who once worked for the task force, Dr. Bruce Carter, told the North County Times that the survey had been mistakenly ---- he had already left the agency ---- e-mailed to him on March 14. He said that he in turn e-mailed it to the directors of the task force, veterinarians Jack Shere with the USDA and Annette Whiteford with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, but Carter said he had not read it and could not provide any details.

He also referred all questions to the task force, but spokespersons and officials there would not confirm or deny that any such survey was made. "We don't have that information at this time," said one.

Nor could they say how that information would be used.

"So far we haven't determined how we will use that information," said spokeswoman Leticia Rico, which seemed to imply that the task force in fact had the survey.

Carter said he worked in the surveillance arm of the task force before returning to his job at a USDA lab in Ames, Iowa, in February. He said that task force officials had talked about doing a survey when he was there.

When asked what such a survey could be used for, he said, "You can eliminate the negatives and focus your resources in areas where you're more likely to find chickens."

Since the disease was found in a backyard flock of chickens in Compton in December, more than 3.2 million birds have been killed, most of them chickens. Exotic Newcastle, which affects all species of birds to various degrees, is spread through the feces and mucus of infected birds. It is so easy to transmit, and so deadly to poultry, that task force officials say they must kill all birds that come in contact with it.

It was found in San Diego County, at Ramona Egg Ranch, in December. Five more, all in Valley Center, were found in February. They are the Armstrong Egg ranches on Cole Grade and Lilac roads; Foster Enterprises, also known as Gross Ranch, on Cole Grade Road; the Fluegge Egg Ranch, on Twain Way; and the Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road.

It was confirmed at a seventh ranch last week, which task force officials refuse to identify until all 56,000 chickens on the ranch are killed, but it is believed to be the Armstrong Egg Ranch on Mac Tan Road in Valley Center.

The disease has also been found in 17 backyard chicken flocks in the county, task force officials said. Those flocks are in Ramona, Valley Center and Escondido.

Bird owners, like the Vista man, said they support efforts by the task force to stop the spread of the disease but said they did not think using postal workers to survey neighborhoods was the best way, especially when it was unclear how the information would be used.

"I think it's very underhanded," he said. "It makes me feel kind of creepy. It just makes me feel like I'm being watched. If the USDA was upfront about everything and I felt like their goal was to educate people, I really wouldn't have a problem with it."

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760)740-5412 or


Union-Tribune, CA

Outdoors Report
Ed Zieralski
March 29, 2003
Quarantine news

The California Department of Fish and Game, acting on a quarantine notice from the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is prohibiting turkey hunters from taking any birds out of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Bernardino and Ventura counties because of the threat of the spread of Exotic Newcastle Disease. The quarantine prohibits the transportation of any birds out of the quarantine area, including live wild turkeys or turkey carcasses. Thus far the disease has only affected poultry, but the DFG fears the disease could spread to the wild turkey population. The DFG's wildlife veterinarian Pam Swift advises: Any birds killed in the quarantine area must remain in the quarantine area. All game farms are prohibited from moving birds out of the quarantine area. Falconers in the quarantine area must immediately cease all movement of birds out of the area. And meat from any birds killed is safe for human consumption. She said the spread of Exotic Newcastle Disease is extremely contagious among birds. The spread, she said, is primarily through direct contact between healthy birds and the bodily fluids of infected birds. But the virus also is spread by virus-bearing material picked up on shoes and clothing and carried from an infected flock to a healthy one.

Union-Tribune, CA

Exotic Newcastle hits third Armstrong flock
By Elizabeth Fitzsimons
March 29, 2003

VALLEY CENTER – Workers in white suits have arrived to begin euthanizing birds at an Armstrong Farms poultry ranch here, the latest commercial operation in the county infected with exotic Newcastle disease.

The workers, members of the state and federal Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force, will kill the birds with carbon dioxide, bury them in landfills and then decontaminate the ranch.

The ranch, on Mac Tan Road near Valley Center Road, had about 56,000 egg-laying hens. It was the seventh commercial poultry farm in the county to become infected with the highly contagious avian virus. The disease also has hit 11 commercial ranches in San Bernardino County and four in Riverside County. Exotic Newcastle is harmless to humans.

The Valley Center ranch is the third Armstrong facility to test positive for the virus. Since late last year, exotic Newcastle has been detected in flocks at Ramona Egg Enterprises in Ramona and Gross, Fluegge and Ward egg ranches in Valley Center.

Officials also have reported 17 cases in backyard or pet birds in Escondido, Ramona and Valley Center. Since the outbreak was first confirmed in Los Angeles County last October the task force has ordered 3.2 million birds destroyed.

The disease kills all type of birds, but chickens are especially susceptible. Symptoms of the disease, which can cause sudden death, include greenish, watery diarrhea; drooping wings; sneezing, coughing and gasping for air; and decreased egg production.

Birds become infected through direct contact with diseased birds and indirectly through contact with people, equipment or vehicles carrying the virus.

More information on exotic Newcastle disease is available by calling the task force hotline at (800) 491-1899, or visiting the state agriculture department's Web site at

Elizabeth Fitzsimons: (760) 737-7578;

The Arizona Republic, AZ

A nature lover's fest
Get acquainted with what wildlife offers in Gilbert
Stephanie Paterik
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 29, 2003 12:00 AM

Today's Feathered Friends Festival in Gilbert isn't only for the birds.

The annual outdoor event is for nature lovers, desert newcomers and community members of all ages, organizers say.

Hosted by the Riparian Institute, the event is a celebration of the plants and wildlife that flock to the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, behind the Southeast Regional Library on the southeastern corner of Guadalupe and Greenfield roads.

"It's really for anybody," said Judy Pendleton, 59, of Gilbert, who volunteers at the preserve, "especially people new to the Southwest."

New residents are often unfamiliar with desert plants, birds and bugs, she added.

Adults and youngsters will get a textbook-free science lesson at the festival, with 37 hands-on activities and 30 exhibits. Want to make a garden grow? Master gardeners will give a free lesson. Need help choosing bird-watching binoculars? That will be covered in a special seminar.

Those who attend will also find exhibits on burrowing owls, a few of which have made their homes at the Riparian Preserve.

A couple of exhibitors who usually bring birds to the festival will likely bring other animals this year because of a viral disease called Newcastle that has been found in chicken flocks in California, Pendleton said.

Many of the exhibits this year will focus on insects, she added. Birds at the preserve have not been affected by Newcastle.

The Maricopa Audubon Society and Arizona Science Center will set up displays. And the state's Game and Fish Department will offer a free fishing clinic for kids.

"It's a way to teach conservation and wildlife appreciation," said Scott Anderson, director of the Riparian Institute.

It teaches an appreciation of the Riparian Preserve, too, which has become a home to desert wildlife and includes trails open to the public year-round. The preserve is fueled by several basins of treated wastewater, which have attracted more than 50 species of birds.

"Most people at the festival say, 'Gee, I didn't even know this was here,' " Anderson said.

Last year, children at the festival asked Pendleton, "Are you going to do this again next week?"

This week, 180 volunteers will be out in full force to make the event a smooth success. It runs from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. today. Admission is free.

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-7951.

Riverside Press Enterprise, CA

NOT Online

Briefs Section
Friday, March 28, 2003
Birds' destruction brings complaint

The Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force was back in the region Thursday destroying pet birds in the area of 56th and Marlatt streets in Mira Loma. Many flocks in the area were destroyed in December and January, leaving behind only a few scattered backyard flocks.

Deanna Wood, who lives on 56th Street, said the task force arrived at her home Thursday morning with a warrant, five sheriffs officers and 10 task-force workers.

"I tried to stall for time to get someone who could help me, but they threatened to arrest me and mace my dogs," Wood said. She said the task force killed her seven birds without granting her the appeals hearing she requested months ago.

Task force spokeswoman Leticia Rico said the birds were killed because they were kept next to an infected yard. "I have not yet verified if an appeals hearing was requested," Rico said.

Press Enterprise, CA

Poultry disease puts crimp in California wild turkey season
The Associated Press

The state Department of Fish and Game warned turkey hunters Friday that a quarantine restricting the movement of poultry in much of Southern California also applies to any wild birds they might bag.

The quarantine remains in place in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to halt the spread of exotic Newcastle disease. The disease is extremely contagious in poultry, including turkeys. Spring wild turkey season opens Saturday.

Any turkeys, live or dead, from the quarantined counties must remain inside the area, according to the department. Game farms are also prohibited from moving birds out of the quarantine area, as are falconers.

The meat from any birds killed is safe to eat, officials said.

Since the disease was first found in commercial and backyard flocks of chickens in California, about 3 million birds have been slaughtered. The disease has been found in Nevada and Arizona as well.

Published: Friday, March 28, 2003 16:48 PST

The Signal, CA

Officials on Lookout for Infected Birds
Brian Franks [Signal Staff Writer]

Federal and state officials have expanded the quarantine area for the exotic Newcastle disease around William S. Hart Park in Newhall to nearly two miles, after an outbreak earlier this month forced the destruction of the park’s captive birds, officials said.

Over the next several days, officials from the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force plan to go door-to-door in a 1.8-mile perimeter around the park to determine if additional birds must be destroyed. The task force is a joint venture of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

City Councilwoman Laurene Weste said the city of Santa Clarita, which is not part of the task force, is working to get more information to the public on what the door-to-door process involves; what people’s rights are; and what areas may be affected.

“Residents are concerned because people don’t know,” said Weste, who has received more than 20 calls from residents about the disease. “All they know is, all the birds at Hart Park were destroyed. The lack of knowledge is scaring them. The problem is, we don’t have a lot information right now.”

Leticia Rico, a spokeswoman for the task force, said that over the next several days officials will knock on doors in the quarantined area, looking for other infected birds that may need to be destroyed.

“The reason we typically expand a quarantine is because we have found more evidence of the disease in an original quarantine area,” Rico said. “I don’t know if that is the case here.”

She said a team from the task force will appraise homeowners’ birds and determine the likelihood that they were exposed to the disease. She said if the team classifies a bird as diseased or dangerous, it will have to be euthanized unless the homeowner requests an appeal.

“If a homeowner decides they don’t want their bird to be euthanized they can appeal and a hearing will be conducted. But if the hearing officer decides the bird most be euthanized, it will be.”

The task force uses carbon dioxide to euthanize infected birds. Compensation is available for bird owners who have their birds destroyed by the task force.

Newcastle disease, which does not affect humans, is a contagious and fatal virus that affects the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of most species of birds. The death rate is nearly 100 percent in unvaccinated birds, and the disease can still infect and kill birds even if they are vaccinated.

Rico said Newcastle disease is not a public health threat and does not affect the safety of poultry or eggs, but the disease can be unintentionally transmitted from one bird to another by humans and other animals.

She said owners of any species of bird inside the quarantined area are prohibited from moving their birds or poultry products out of the area without a permit from the USDA. Violators may be subject to fines up to $25,000.

The March 12 discovery of the disease at Hart Park was the second known occurrence in the Santa Clarita Valley. In December the USDA destroyed all of the poultry at the Canyon Country Feed Bin after some of the birds were found to be infected. The owners were compensated but nonetheless said the incident forced them to shut down permanently on Jan. 31 after nearly 50 years in business.

The last major outbreak of Newcastle disease was in 1971, when 1,341 infected flocks were found and nearly 12 million birds were destroyed in California. There was also a small outbreak of the disease in 1998.

Then on Oct. 1, the disease was confirmed in the state again. California was placed under a federal quarantine to restrict the movement of birds in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.

Since then, 14,922 premises have been quarantined in California, Nevada and Arizona. More than 2,400 sites in California, including 415 in Los Angeles County, contained infected birds, and more than 3.27 million birds have been destroyed in total.

Rico said as of Thursday the task force had spent more than $70.4 million on its intensive eradication program throughout the state.

She said the state’s quarantine and eradication program will continue until the disease is destroyed.

For more information or to report an outbreak of Newcastle disease, call the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force at (800) 491-1899 or visit on the Internet.

Union-Tribune, CA

Avian disease found at 7th poultry ranch
Cost of eradication continues to climb
By Elizabeth Fitzsimons
March 28, 2003

A government task force has spent $70 million and assigned 1,300 people to eradicate a fatal avian disease, but it continues to spread.

A seventh commercial poultry ranch in the county has tested positive for exotic Newcastle disease, the state and federal Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force said yesterday.

Leticia Rico, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Food and Agriculture, said the task force would not release the name or location of the ranch until the 56,000 egg-laying hens there had been destroyed.

Exotic Newcastle, which is harmless to humans, was detected in the county late in December at Ramona Egg Enterprises. The highly contagious disease, caused by a virus, was later discovered in Valley Center, in flocks at two Armstrong Farms ranches, and at the Gross, Fluegge and Ward egg ranches.

There have also been 17 cases among back yard or pet birds in North County, mostly in Valley Center neighborhoods near infected commercial ranches.

The task force of state and federal agriculture departments has been working since October to locate cases and destroy infected birds and any in contact with them.

The departments have brought in workers from other parts of California and from out of state. USDA workers stay for three-week stints, then return home for a week before reporting back again. "It's stretched our resources," Rico said.

The cost of the eradication effort has not reached the level of the last severe outbreak of exotic Newcastle, in the early 1970s. Three years fighting the earlier outbreak cost $56 million, which the state agriculture officials said would be equivalent to about $239 million in today's dollars. About 12 million chickens were destroyed in that outbreak before it was controlled, compared to about 3.2 million ordered destroyed so far in this one.

Though the disease has continued to spread in San Diego County, the march is a slow one compared to what has been happening in other Southern California counties.

In Riverside, the task force has recorded 1,028 cases, four of which are commercial poultry facilities. San Bernardino accounts for 942 cases, 11 of them commercial sites. In Los Angeles, officials have found 415 cases, all of them among back yard or pet birds.

The outbreak was first confirmed in back yard birds in the city of Compton in Los Angeles County in October.

Elizabeth Fitzsimons: (760) 737-7578;

North County Times, CA

Task force confirms seventh infected ranch
Staff Writer

Exotic Newcastle has been found at another ranch in San Diego County, the state-federal task force in charge of stamping out the deadly avian virus said Thursday.

Leticia Rico, a spokeswoman for the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force, said that just under 56,000 chickens at the farm would be killed based on test results showing that the birds have Exotic Newcastle.

Rico said she could not release the name or location of the farm until it has been "depopulated," meaning all the birds on the premises have been killed. However, it has been learned from other sources that the farm is the Armstrong Egg Ranch on Mac Tan Road in Valley Center. This is the third Armstrong Ranch to test positive for the disease. The other two, one on Cole Grade Road and another on Lilac Road, were found to have Exotic Newcastle in February.

The new site is the seventh farm in San Diego County to test positive since December, when Ramona Egg Farm was found to have the disease. Foster Enterprises, also known as Gross Ranch, on Cole Grade Road and the Fluegge Egg Ranch, on Twain Way, both in Valley Center, tested positive in February. Earlier this month, the Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road was found to have the disease.

A total of 17 backyard chicken flocks in Ramona, Valley Center and Escondido have also contracted Exotic Newcastle.

Task force officials say the disease spreads so easily through the feces or mucus of infected birds that in order to stop it, every bird at an infected site must be killed. So far, nearly 450,000 chickens in the county have been killed because of the disease.

Exotic Newcastle was first found in a flock of backyard chickens in Compton in October and has spread to several ranches and back yards, resulting in a federal quarantine of San Diego, Riverside, Imperial, Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

So far, the task force, which is headed up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, has spent more than $70 million.

The last time a widespread outbreak of Exotic Newcastle hit California was 1971. It lasted three years and cost $56 million to eradicate.

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760) 740-5412 or


North County Times, CA

A seventh ranch may be infected with Exotic Newcastle
Staff Writer

Another chicken ranch in San Diego County is suspected of having Exotic Newcastle disease, a well-placed source said Wednesday. The task force set up to contain and eliminate the deadly disease declined to comment on the possible infection of yet another ranch..

It was unclear Wednesday how many chickens are on the farm, which is believed to be in Valley Center. If the farm tests positive for the disease, it would be the seventh in the county ---- the sixth in Valley Center ---- to get the disease since December.

The first ranch in the county to be found with Exotic Newcastle was Ramona Egg Ranch, which tested positive in December. In February, the Armstrong Egg ranches on Cole Grade and Lilac roads in Valley Center; Foster Enterprises, also known as Gross Ranch, on Cole Grade Road in Valley Center; and the Fluegge Egg Ranch on Twain Way in Valley Center were hit with the disease. The Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road tested positive earlier this month.

Task force officials say that the disease spreads so easily through the mucus or feces of infected birds that to stop the disease they must kill every bird on a site where it is found. So far in San Diego County, nearly 450,000 birds have been killed, and statewide, that number has reached more than 3.2 million.

Biologists with the task force have said that the disease affects every species of birds, but is especially deadly to poultry, with a mortality rate of more than 90 percent. In exotic birds, the symptoms vary, but cockatiels, budgies, amazons and cockatoos are said to be highly susceptible, while other species, such as lorries, macaws, canaries, finches, mynahs and African greys, may not show signs but can be carriers.

Since the disease was found in a flock of backyard chickens in Compton in October, it has spread to several other Southern California counties. In response, the federal government has placed a quarantine on all birds in San Diego, Riverside, Orange, Imperial, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

A lawsuit

In another development, a group of 16 bird owners and a feed store filed a lawsuit against the state of California, the governor and the task force Tuesday.

"The problem we have," said William Dailey, the Los Angeles-based attorney representing the group, "is that we disagree with the declaration of the state of emergency."

Gov. Gray Davis declared a state of emergency for the state on Jan. 7.

The declaration, Dailey said Wednesday, gives the task force the authority to kill birds that have not tested positive for the disease.

"There seems to be this rush to kill any bird they can get their hands on," he said. "Nobody objects to the quarantine; the problem is that once the quarantine is in place, the task force has the right to come in and kill everything with feathers."

Task force spokesman Steve Lyle said that attorneys there had not been served with the writ yet, but that the authority to kill birds is not a result of the state of emergency.

"The declaration of a state of emergency only allows us to coordinate the efforts of federal, state and local agencies," he said.

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760) 740-5412 or


Colorado River Weekender, AZ

Exotic Newcastle Disease forces ban on bird events

All bird events are prohibited due to a recent disease outbreak — including all field trial, field trial training and shooting preserve activities under licenses issued by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The Arizona Department of Agriculture has issued a director's administrative order to assist in preventing the spread of Exotic Newcastle Disease within Arizona. One element of this administrative order prohibits all poultry and bird events, such as exhibits, shows, auctions, competitions or other public displays of birds of any types. Furthermore, the Arizona state veterinarian has concluded that this event ban includes any movement of all birds under Arizona Game and Fish Department field trial, field trial training, and shooting preserve licenses: effective March 3. "Exotic Newcastle Disease is an extremely contagious viral disease," says Jim deVos of the Arizona Game and Fish Department's research branch, "It affects many species of birds from poultry to wild birds." This viral disease is one of the most infectious avian diseases of poultry in the world, with a death rate of almost 100 percent in unvaccinated poultry stocks. Newcastle Disease spreads rapidly among confined birds, such as chickens but it can also be spread by virus-bearing material picked up on shoes and clothing and carried to other areas. Newcastle Disease does not pose a serious threat to humans or food but it is a foreign animal disease that is deadly to almost all birds. This avian viral disease was most likely initially introduced into the United States through Southern California by illegal importations of infected birds. This disease affects the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and has an incubation period ranging from two to 15 days. Infected birds may exhibit the following signs: • Respiratory: sneezing, gasping for air, nasal discharge, coughing; • Digestive: greenish, watery diarrhea; • Nervous: muscular tremors, droopy wings, twisting head or neck, circling, paralysis; • Partial or complete reduction in egg production or production of very thin-shelled eggs; • Swelling of tissues around eyes and neck; • Very sudden death or a high increase in the number of deaths in a flock. For additional information or an update of restrictions in the movement of birds in Arizona, contact the Arizona Department of Agriculture hotline at 1-888-742-5334 or the ADOA Web site . Specific questions are being handled through e-mail at

North County Times, CA

Task force: $70.4M spent to combat Newcastle
Staff Writer

The state-federal task force in charge of stopping Exotic Newcastle disease said Monday that it has spent a whopping $70.4 million since the disease was discovered in California last fall.

The task force is being led by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In late February, the last time the task force released figures on the cost of Exotic Newcastle, it said the state had spent $13 million and the federal government had spent $22 million.

Spokeswoman Leticia Rico said the task force is no longer breaking down the amount each agency has spent because "the USDA is paying for it all."

Responding to rumors that the agency is running out of money, Rico said, "if additional funds are needed, we'll request those from the U.S. secretary of agriculture."

A state of emergency has been declared in the state of California because of the outbreak, and Rico said that for that reason, she doubts that any request for money would be denied.

"Thinking back on other programs, they continue to provide funding," she said.

So far, more than 3.1 million birds have been killed since the disease was found in a flock of backyard chickens in Compton in October.

A federal quarantine has been placed on all the counties where the disease has been found ---- San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange and San Bernardino ---- as well as Ventura, Santa Barbara and Imperial counties.

In San Diego County, the disease was found at Ramona Egg Ranch in December and has spread to five other commercial ranches. Those ranches ---- the Armstrong Egg ranches on Cole Grade and Lilac roads; Foster Enterprises, also known as Gross Ranch, on Cole Grade Road; the Fluegge Egg Ranch, on Twain Way; and Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road ---- are all in Valley Center.

The disease has also been discovered in 17 backyard flocks in the county.

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760) 740-5412 or


Riverside Press Enterprise, CA

Group attacks Newcastle order

LOS ANGELES - A group of residents, animal-rights activists and a Mira Loma feed store filed a writ Tuesday with the Superior Court of California Tuesday seeking to rescind Gov. Davis' Jan. 7 proclamation declaring a state of emergency regarding exotic Newcastle disease.

The 16 petitioners are also asking that the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force be ordered to establish stricter protocols to ensure that pet owners are not subject to the illegal search and seizure of their animals. The petitioners argue the task force has unconstitutionally seized and killed their pets or hurt their business.

If the emergency order is rescinded, the task force would lose the authority to inflict bodily harm or damage property in its effort to eradicate the disease, petitioner Cherylynn Costner said. The disease is fatal to poultry and other birds but does not harm humans.

Task force attorney John Dyer, who had not yet been served with the writ, said the authority to depopulate or kill birds comes from state regulations rather than the emergency order.

"The declaration of emergency directs all government and local agencies to work together to eradicate the spread of exotic Newcastle disease," Dyer said. "It doesn't have anything to do with the depopulation."

North County Times, CA

Costs of Exotic Newcastle disease continue to grow
Staff Writer

As the struggle to stop the spread of Exotic Newcastle disease continues, the extent of the economic impact remains uncertain. One factor that will deepen the losses is the trade ban that has been placed against California poultry imports by other states and foreign countries, although the effect of the bans on San Diego County farms seems minimal.

The bans, which are taking many forms ---- against all of California, against the quarantine zone, against all poultry products, against certain poultry items, or against all birds ---- has cost the state's $3 billion egg and poultry meat industry between $10 million and $15 million since October, according to the California Poultry Federation.

He said the effect is smaller than it could be since the industry only exports about 2 percent of its products.

Exotic Newcastle was found in a backyard flock in Compton in October and quickly spread to commercial and backyard chicken flocks in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties. One premise in Ventura County is said to have been found infected but later released. A federal quarantine includes those counties in addition to Santa Barbara and Imperial counties, which, according to the task force, act as a "buffer zone" around infected counties.

So far, more than 3.1 million chickens have been killed because of the disease, which task force officials say spreads so quickly through the feces or mucus of infected birds that if a bird is found to have the disease, all birds at the site must be killed. In San Diego County, six commercial farms have been affected, and nearly 450,000 chickens have been killed.

The first farm to be hit with the disease in San Diego County was Ramona Egg Farm, which was found to be infected in December. Four more, all in Valley Center, were found in February. They are the Armstrong Egg ranches on Cole Grade and Lilac roads; Foster Enterprises, also known as Gross Ranch, on Cole Grade Road; and the Fluegge Egg Ranch, on Twain Way. A sixth, and the latest to be identified by the task force, is the Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road.

San Diego County veterinarian Al Guajardo said the effect of the export ban is "almost nonexistent" because so few local farmers send their products out of the local market, although he said the county does not keep numbers on local poultry exports.

Eric Larson of the San Diego County Farm Bureau said his organization does not track local exports either, saying, "The eggs produced locally stay in the local market."

He said laying hens that have stopped producing eggs may be sold on the meat market, although he said he did not know for sure.

According to the 2001 county crop report, chicken meat was worth $949,000, while eggs were a $48 million business.

California Poultry Federation President Bill Mattos said that although San Diego farmers are not drastically affected, other farmers both in and out of the quarantine area are.

He said that to make up for lost export markets, many farmers, such as Foster Farms, which is based in Livingston, are looking for new markets within California. A spokeswoman for a public relations firm representing Foster Farms said company officials would not comment beyond a press release, which called the impact of the export ban "minimal."

Mattos said another business that is being hit hard by the ban is Nicholas Turkeys Breeding Farm in Sonoma. A spokeswoman there referred all questions about the ban to Mattos, who said he could not say exactly how much money the company was losing because of the ban.

"A big part of what Nicholas Turkey breeders does is ship their turkey eggs and poults, or baby turkeys, to their parent company in England," he said. "They can't do that now."

Twenty-four countries have bans against bird-related exports. Some are against poultry and eggs, while others are against all bird products. Most of those countries have bans only against products from one or all states with infected sites ---- California, Arizona and Nevada ---- while others have longer lists of states. Within the United States, Arizona, Florida, Iowa and Massachusetts are listed as not accepting any bird exports from California, while Georgia, Oregon, Utah and Washington have opted for what Mattos called a "regional program," and have banned exports only from the quarantined area.

Hawaii has taken a unique position on California exports. The state has banned the import of all bird products from 10 Southern California counties, including the eight counties included in the federal quarantine and San Luis Obispo and Kern counties, unless the products are certified by the state as disease-free, state veterinarian James Foppoli said. The two additional counties were added as a "buffer zone," Foppoli said.

The state does not accept poultry products from anywhere in California unless it has been deemed free of Exotic Newcastle, he said.

"We don't have any confidence that people can't move birds out of those quarantined areas," he said. "We want to reduce our risk as much as possible."

Foppoli said that the state used to import a portion of its eggs from a producer in the quarantine zone, although he said he did not know which one or how many because the industry is not monitored for that type of thing. He said that some eggs ---- fewer than 100,000 of the state's annual import of 100 million ---- still come from the quarantine zone.

When asked how long the ban will last, Foppoli said, "As long as Exotic Newcastle disease is present in California."

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760) 740-5412 or


The Bakersfield Californian, CA

Disease forces rise in landfill fees
By MARYLEE SHRIDER, Californian staff writer
Saturday March 22, 2003, 11:30:10 PM

Animal owners will pay more to bury dead livestock at local landfills after the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve an emergency gate fee increase.

The fee increase already was set to take effect July 1. But waste management officials concerned about a possible outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease in Kern County asked the board to OK an immediate increase.

The discovery of the avian virus in Kern County, and the subsequent slaughter of infected birds, would place a serious financial burden on local waste facilities, said Daphne Washington, director of the Kern County Waste Management Division.

"If there were a need to dispose of large quantities of birds, our current fee structure does not adequately cover those costs," she said. "We needed to increase the fees right now."

The cost to dispose of large animals is now $30, an increase of $20. In the case of multiple animals, which would be likely in the event of an Newcastle outbreak, the cost is $70 per ton.

"The current fee for each small animal is $5, but if we considered each dead bird (in a flock) it would be prohibitive," Washington said.

Large animals cannot merely be dumped into the landfill, but require burial, Washington said. The fee increase will cover what it costs to dig special pits and cover the carcass.

Bird owners don't have to worry about the cost of birds lost to exotic Newcastle disease. Kern County Agricultural Commissioner Ted Davis said disposal of Newcastle waste, including carcasses, eggs, manure and other organic-based material, would be covered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture via the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force eradication program.

Task Force agents are currently working with local ag officials, conducting searches and surveillance of commercial bird operations.

Davis said he and other officials hope the virus doesn't make it into Kern County, but they want to be prepared if it does.

"I don't know that it's anticipated but there is a definite possibility we can get a call at any moment from the USDA telling us we do have Newcastle," Davis said. "If that were the case, Kern County would be quarantined."

The temporary ordinance expires July 1, when the permanent increase goes into effect.

Union-Tribune, CA

More diseased birds discovered

Four more cases of exotic Newcastle disease have been found here among backyard or pet birds, and two more commercial poultry ranches in San Bernardino County have been infected.

The new cases of the deadly avian virus put the total in San Diego County at 22, six of which have been at commercial poultry ranches.

The two ranches brought the total of infected commercial sites in Southern California to 21, of which 11 are in San Bernardino County, officials announced. The 36,000 birds at one ranch and the 54,000 birds at the other were ordered destroyed.

Since the outbreak was detected in Los Angeles County in October, the state and federal Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force have ordered about 3.1 million birds destroyed.

The spread among backyard birds in San Diego has been slow in comparison to Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. In Riverside County, the task force has recorded more than 1,000 cases of the disease. In San Bernardino, there have been more than 900; in Los Angeles County, there have been nearly 400.

Larry Cooper, a spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said task force workers were contacting residents in Carlsbad, Ramona, Chula Vista and the East County community of Bostonia yesterday with surveys.

"It really is a bird inventory and an information-providing effort," Cooper said. "They don't examine any birds or anything like that."

The Signal, CA - Out of Date Order Here

Poultry pandemic hits Newhall; feds in pursuit
By Editorial from The Signal: The Newspaper's Opinion

It's been a sad week for the animal handlers at William S. Hart Park in Newhall. All 37 birds - geese, chickens, a 20-year-old turkey and more - were gassed after three of the birds were found to be infected with the exotic Newcastle disease.

It was the second known appearance of the disease in the Santa Clarita Valley. In December it cropped up at the Canyon Country Feed Bin, with the same fatal result.

Considering that the disease - which doesn't affect humans but is almost always lethal to birds - has appeared at both ends of our valley, it wouldn't be too big a stretch to assume this new poultry pandemic could get a lot worse before it gets better.

That's what state and federal health officials are worried about, and that's why their presence will soon be felt throughout Newhall. If you live within a kilometer of Hart Park - that's a little over half a mile - you can expect a government official to knock on your door the next couple of days.

It won't be the FBI or CIA or Homeland Security, but for people who own birds as pets, it'll be just as scary.

It'll be the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on the lookout for infected fowl. Whether it's your sweet little parakeet in the living-room cage or the rooster that rousts the neighbors from bed every morning, these USDA officials will be administering tests to see if your pet has been exposed. And if your pet tests positive, say goodbye.

"A veterinarian will appraise the bird and the probability that it was exposed to the disease," said Larry Cooper, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. "If the veterinarian classifies it as a dangerous-contact bird, it has to be euthanized unless the homeowner requests an appeal."

That's right, there is an appeal process - but, "if it is deemed to be infected, those birds are going to die anyway," Cooper said.

And if you do live within the perimeter, you'll face a $25,000 fine if you try to move your pet (or eggs, or other poultry products) out of the zone. Plus, you'd be threatening the health of other people's birds and potentially spreading the disease.

We hope the handwriting on the wall is wrong - we hope the USDA doesn't find any infected birds when they start fanning out through Newhall. We hope the USDA will do a great deal of outreach and explain people's rights - in both English and Spanish, given the high percentage of Latino families within a one-kilometer ring around Hart Park.

And if these federal agents do determine that Tweety is on death's door, we hope they remember that these animals are people's beloved pets, and handle the situation with the appropriate sensitivity.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL 3&Ref=AR

AP Story - Many other sources
Agriculture industry prepared for war
Associated Press Writer

At Foster Farms in Livingston, which processes most of California's chicken, the staff is on its highest security alert.

And unfamiliar vehicles are getting a close look at Case Van Steyn's 700-cow dairy in Sacramento County after federal officials issued new security guidelines to protect the nation's food supply from terrorist attacks.

"With all the stuff we've read in the media - foot-and-mouth, TB and that bird disease - it gets your attention," Van Steyn said. "We all think about the potential of what could happen and it's something none of us can afford."

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration issued additional security guidelines to food companies as congressional auditors issued a report that the country's food supply is vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Recommendations include employee background checks, banning workers from bringing purses or other personal items into food-storage areas and training workers to recognize suspicious behavior or possible food tampering.

California farmers and food processors say they've already been taking extra precautions since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by adding more fencing, lighting and conducting employee background checks.

Some livestock owners also have required protective clothing or disinfectant on footwear before entering farms after an outbreak of the deadly foot-and-mouth disease in Europe two years ago, and most recently, the exotic Newcastle disease.

"We're very ready. This is not a new issue for us," said Steve Beckley, president of the California Plant Health Association, which represents 90 percent of fertilizer retailers, manufacturers and distributors in California, Arizona and Hawaii.

Fertilizer companies have done employee background checks and set up guidelines to secure chemical processing and storage facilities, and customers are questioned about how they plan to use the products. "We just don't want to give anybody the opportunity to misuse our products," Beckley said.

Some farmers have closed their property.

Van Steyn said he has discontinued school and industry tours on his dairy since Sept. 11.

The state's crop dusters also say they've taken precautions such as placing locks or living on the property where planes are stored since Sept. 11. The planes were grounded for several weeks at the start of California's cotton harvest after the attacks.

The dairy industry also has placed locks on milk houses and seals on milk tankers since September 2001, said Jim Tillison, Alliance of Western Milk Producers executive director.

While some farmers and food processors are taking extra precautions, Robert Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley says it hasn't considered taking any additional security measures.

"I think our situation is a little bit different. We don't have visitors coming through in our vineyards yet, and it's a different kind of product," said Nancy Light, vice president of public relations.

Modesto Bee, CA

No more Easter chicks
Published: March 21, 2003, 08:01:50 AM PST

California's struggle to eradicate exotic Newcastle disease claimed another victim Thursday: the adorable Easter chick.

The Exotic Newcastle Task Force has banned sales and exhibits of chicks and other poultry at swap meets, feed stores, pet stores and other places across the state where the birds could be in contact with people.

That means those fuzzy, chirping yellow chicks that are so often associated with Easter will be hard to find next month.

"With Easter approaching, we felt it would be wise to impose the quarantine statewide," said Larry Cooper, a spokesman for the task force. "There were too many risks not to take this step."

Commercial poultry producers will not be affected by the ban because their operations are already inspected by the state and federal officials.

The current outbreak of exotic Newcastle, lethal to birds but harmless to humans, was uncovered in Los Angeles in October and has killed 3.1 million birds.

The U.S. and California departments of agriculture have imposed a quarantine throughout Southern California, preventing birds from being taken out of the region.

The task force had already banned the sale and display of poultry in public areas in Southern California, fearing such gatherings would spread the disease.

"One of our concerns is someone from an infested area could carry the disease with them, and infect healthy birds in another part of the state," Cooper said.

He could not say how long the ban might last. During California's last outbreak of exotic Newcastle in 1971, Cooper said, a similar ban was imposed on infected regions for three years.

Many San Joaquin Valley feed stores sell chicks throughout the year, housing them in pens that allow customers to reach in and handle them.

"A person who has been exposed to the disease could pass it by touching a chick, then any bird that chick comes in contact with could be infected," Cooper said. "Once those chicks start spreading out to homes or farms, the disease could just take off."

The popularity of chicks increases as Easter approaches, according to local dealers. Even those who don't sell many Easter chicks will be hurt by the ban.

"We sell a lot of our chickens to older people who raise eggs to eat and to sell," said Amie Coley, manager of Farmers Best Feed in Modesto. "This is about the time they come in to replenish their flocks, and we're having to tell them we can't sell the birds."

Sales of turkeys, ducks, geese, partridges, pheasants, quail, guinea fowl, pea fowl, doves, pigeons, grouse, swans, ostriches and emus also are forbidden.

"Birds aren't a big part of our business, but customers regularly come in for ducks or turkeys, for pets and food," Coley said.

Stores can sell the birds only if they are kept in individual cages and away from the public, Cooper said, but it's uncommon for poultry to be sold that way.

The decision to enact the ban was made by Dr. Richard Breit-meyer, California's state veterinarian. Cooper said it falls in line with other decisions the federal and state task force has made.

"Containment is a priority," Cooper said. "The best way to do that is minimize the risk of exposure to new areas of the state."

People caught removing birds from the quarantine zone are subject to fines of up to $250,000, Cooper said, though the state hasn't prosecuted any offenders.

"We've made it very clear that there is a stiff price to be paid if people take birds out of the quarantine area. I think that message has gotten across," Cooper said.

Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at 578-2316 or

'With Easter approaching, we felt it would be wise to impose the quarantine statewide. There were too many risks not to take this step.'

-- Larry Cooper, spokesman, Exotic Newcastle Task Force

North County Times, CA

Letters to the Editor

North County Times goes too far

I think the North County Times goes too far. The task force that is fighting the Exotic Newcastle disease refused to release the names of the affected farms, saying that if the names are known, nosy neighbors or disrespectful reporters might go to the farms and inadvertently spread the disease further.

So what does the North County Times do? They print the names of three farms. I think they should put North County Times and the report in quarantine, for they have no business going over the heads of the task force just to get a story.


Sacramento Bee, CA

Poultry firm layoffs
By Mike Lee -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 a.m. PST Friday, March 21, 2003

A Turlock poultry processing plant announced plans Thursday to lay off more than 100 employees, marking the first major economic impact of exotic Newcastle disease on a Northern California processor.

Valley Fresh, one of Turlock's largest employers, blamed the move on a quarantine that has stopped its normal flow of chickens from Southern California.

"We can't get enough birds to spread out our operating costs," said Jerry Parker, operations director for Valley Fresh.

"Our costs have been rising over the years, and the Newcastle quarantine was the straw that broke the camel's back."

Since last fall, state officials have been trying to contain the deadly disease in several Southern California counties and protect the rest of the state's $1 billion industry. More than 3 million birds have been euthanized in the effort.

The rest of the Central Valley's massive poultry industry largely should be spared more economic fallout as long as the disease doesn't spread north, said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation in Modesto.

He said Valley Fresh's supply chain was unique and its problems likely were not indicative of more layoffs in the Central Valley. Valley Fresh processes more than 8 million chickens a year, about half of which come from Southern California.

"The meat industry up here is business as usual," Mattos said. "We are still producing as much meat and eggs as we have ever produced up here."

Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, IA

State relies on veterinarian cooperation to protect livestock
Courier Staff Writer

HUDSON - Cooperation among local and state veterinarians is a must to prevent outbreaks of potentially deadly and financially devastating livestock diseases, state officials say.

Dr. John Schiltz, state veterinarian, said the working relationship between his office and colleagues throughout the state has helped protect the state's livestock. However, he warns animal practitioners must remain vigilant to keep the multi-billion dollar industry safe.

Pseudorabies, which causes respiratory and reproductive problems in pigs, is a prime example, Schiltz said. For a little more than a year, no cases have been reported. The once rampant disease infected 25 percent of the state's hogs, but is now on the brink of eradication, which won't be claimed until no new cases show up for at least two years.

"We are very close to successfully completing the eradication of the pseudorabies virus from the Iowa swine herd," Schiltz said in press release. "This was accomplished in a cooperative venture with private practice veterinarians, associated industry groups and producers."

Dr. Brian Hargens with the Hudson-Reinbeck Veterinary Clinic said his office was involved with biannual swine testing and setting up vaccination schedules at local farms.

Continued cooperation, like reporting symptoms in a timely manner, will help the state ward off other animal diseases, Schiltz said.

"It's real critical," Hargens agreed, saying clinic veterinarians also pay close attention to all foreign animal disease notices and attend as many meetings on diseases as possible. "That keeps us ahead of the issue."

The Iowa Legislature voted two years ago to spend $200,000 to bolster defenses against the likes of exotic Newcastle, foot and mouth and chronic wasting diseases.

So far none of these have been found in Iowa. But Dr. Patrick Webb, the state's foreign animal disease program coordinator hired in June 2001, said it would be foolish to think they won't show up. The Iowa Department of Agriculture has conducted four regional meetings for private practitioners on foreign animal diseases.

In the future, Webb would like to hold more training for vets interested in forming rapid disease response teams, upgrade Web sites with disease information, conduct more autopsies of suspicious animal deaths and teach farmers more biosecurity measures.

"From a resource standpoint, one person totally dedicated to foreign animal diseases and agriterrorism has helped," Webb said. "We've been incredibly busy."

The latest fear is exotic Newcastle disease, a highly infectious and fatal virus found in poultry. The disease is prevalent in southern California, with cases found in Arizona and Nevada. Ag officials suspect fighting game birds imported to the country spread the disease.

Since Iowa leads the nation in egg production, Webb says it's imperative to keep the disease out. Ag experts said an END outbreak could cost the state almost $200 million.

He met with poultry producers last month and alerted law enforcement officers to be on the lookout for game birds being transported in the state. Webb, who went to California to help combat the disease, said fighting roosters and breeding hens can be worth up to $5,000 so people don't want to give them up.

San Jose Mercury News, CA

Posted on Thu, Mar. 20, 2003
Turlock plant blames poultry disease for layoffs
Associated Press

Turlock - -- A deadly poultry disease is being blamed for layoffs at a Turlock chicken processing plant.

Valley Fresh says it will have to lay off 100 to 150 workers in May because of a shortage of chickens after an outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease.

The 34-year-old company will also close its deboning and cooking divisions.

The outbreak of the disease and a quarantine of Southern California poultry has halted the flow of birds to the plant.

Valley Fresh processes some eight (m) million to 10 million chickens a year.

(The Modesto Bee)

North County Times, CA

Newcastle task force going door-to-door
Staff Writer
The task force set up to fight Exotic Newcastle disease went door-to-door in Carlsbad and Ramona on Wednesday, trying to identify which homes have birds, a spokesman said.

Task force workers are giving home owners surveys about whether they own birds, how many, and if any have been sick or died, spokesman Larry Cooper said.

The deadly avian disease was discovered at a Ramona egg ranch in October, and has resulted in the killing of about 450,000 birds. Most of those came from the six infected commercial poultry ranches: Ramona Egg Ranch; the Armstrong Egg ranches on Cole Grade and Lilac roads in Valley Center; Foster Enterprises, also known as Gross Ranch, on Cole Grade Road in Valley Center; the Fluegge Egg Ranch, on Twain Way in Valley Center; and a sixth ranch that task force officials said will be named once the birds on the property have been killed, although it is believed to the be Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road.

More than 660 birds from backyard flocks have been killed in Valley Center, Ramona and Escondido.

Cooper said the group is going door-to-door outside the afflicted areas because "that would tell us if the disease had spread there if we find it there ---- it would also tell us how many birds are in backyards if we do get something there.

"It's fairly random (which communities they go to)," he said. "Their job is to survey as many areas as they can."

The task force is made up of several state and federal agencies, but is under the joint leadership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The task force was also knocking on doors in Bostonia, near El Cajon, and in Chula Vista on Wednesday.

Since the disease first was found in the county, task force officials have also gone door-to-door in parts of Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista and Winter Gardens, Cooper said. He said that the dates the task force was in those areas were not immediately available and said that such a question must be submitted in writing.

One of the bird owners contacted before Wednesday, Bill Patrick, said the task force came to his Carlsbad home during the first week of March. He said the employee gave him information on the disease. He said the woman did not try to enter his house.

"I didn't invite her in, and she didn't ask," he said. "We talked out on the porch."

Exotic Newcastle was first found in a backyard chicken flock in Compton in October. It has now been found in commercial farms and backyard flocks in San Diego, Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. A federal quarantine that prevents the movement of birds, includes those six counties, in addition to Imperial and Santa Barbara counties, which act as a "buffer zone."

The last time a large-scale outbreak of Exotic Newcastle hit California was 1971, and it took three years and $56 million to eradicate the disease. In that time, 12 million birds were killed.

Questions concerning the disease may be answered by calling the California Food and Agriculture Department at (800) 491-1899 or the U.S. Department of Agriculture at (800) 940-6524.

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760) 740-5412 or


Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, CA,1413,203~21481~1256476,00.html

Article Last Updated: Thursday, March 20, 2003 - 2:34:34 AM PST
Newcastle case confirmed at ranch

Deadly exotic Newcastle disease has been found at another San Bernardino County chicken ranch, state officials confirmed Wednesday.

The infection brings to 21 the total of affected chicken ranches in Southern California, and state officials expect to destroy 36,000 chickens there.

After nearly a month-long quiet spell, the deadly poultry virus has been found at four ranches since last Friday.

One of those facilities was Chino Ranch, 13163 Pipeline Ave., the state task force charged with eradicating the virus disclosed Wednesday. The ranch's 54,277 birds were destroyed early this week.

Task force leaders are still concerned about noncommercial bird owners restocking their flocks too soon.

"The virus lives longer in cooler, wetter weather," California Department of Food and Agriculture spokesman Larry Cooper said. "How long the virus can stay really depends on the climate."

All bird owners are encouraged to call the task force hotline, (800) 491-1899, for advice before replacing flocks killed due to exotic Newcastle.

Naomi Kresge, (909) 483-8553

Sacramento Bee, CA

State's poultry rules tighten
The ban on bird exhibits aims to stop the spread of exotic Newcastle disease.
By Mike Lee -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 a.m. PST Thursday, March 20, 2003

Already banned from Cal Expo and most county fairs, bird exhibits are now off-limits in all public places across California as agriculture officials try to stop the spread of exotic Newcastle disease.

Orders issued Wednesday restrict sales of poultry -- including chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, pheasants, quail and other species -- at swap meets, bird marts and feed stores where groups of birds are publicly displayed.

The regulations, aimed at saving the state's $1 billion poultry industry, already were in force in Southern California, where officials are discovering new infections of the disease every few days. "The ban was really needed statewide to give us some insurance," said Larry Cooper, spokesman for the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force. "We are trying to keep groups of birds away from the public."

Since the first infected bird was discovered last fall in a Compton backyard, Newcastle containment efforts have cost agencies $65 million, including reimbursements for 3.2 million euthanized birds.

Most infestations are in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties. Infected birds also have been found in Las Vegas and in Arizona, where three counties have been quarantined.

Earlier this month, Central Valley counties started preparing for Newcastle outbreaks with bird surveys and the creation of emergency response plans.

"They are inventorying how many birds people have so they can appraise the risk ... should the virus get into the Valley," Cooper said.

At the University of California, Davis, poultry extension veterinarian Carol Cardona said the Northern California poultry industry isn't worried about Newcastle spreading through commercial flocks. Despite what she called a "massive communication campaign," the concern remains hobbyist birders.

Newcastle-infected birds usually die quickly, and the death rate approaches 100 percent for unvaccinated flocks. Symptoms are similar to other respiratory diseases in poultry, including nasal discharges and cloudiness in the cornea of the eye.

Birds can be exposed to the virus by direct contact with exposed birds, by contaminated bedding, by human carriers of the disease or by vehicles that have driven on contaminated property.

The disease does not harm humans. But it could spoil some fun for children who each summer flock to fairs with all manner of birds.

"Basically, anything with a beak or feather will not be on the grounds other than wild birds that fly through," said Steve Weaver, CEO of the Sacramento County Fair. "The risk is just too great."

The same goes for the California State Fair, which also called off bird competitions.

Weaver said fair organizers are rethinking programs for children who raise poultry so they have something to do at the fair.

But the main focus is keeping the disease from spreading. "If that happens, we have really, really big problems," he said. "It would just be devastating to the poultry industry."

If you have questions or suspect your birds may have the disease, call the Exotic Newcastle Disease hotline at (800) 491-1899.

The Bee's Mike Lee can be reached at (916) 321-1102 or

Processors, livestock are weak links in US food system, say experts
By Cheryl Tevis
Farm Issues Editor
Successful Farming

The US must do a better job of tracking products that move through the food supply so it can respond quickly and prevent natural diseases, as well as terrorist attacks. That was the conclusion of a panel of experts at the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture in early February.

Bruce McPheron, associate dean of research and graduate education in Penn State*s College of Agricultural Sciences, defined agricultural biosecurity as the effort to prevent entry of a pathogen or pest into a susceptible population of plants and animals.

"The biology of a natural introduction and the intentional introduction of a pathogen or pest has many parallels," he said. "The ways that we would approach it, recognize it and diagnose it are very similar."

McPheron said that it was hard to define a single, weak link in the US food system, but he said there probably was more than one. Food processing facilities would make easy targets for would-be terrorists, according to McPheron.

Patty Dunn, senior research associate in veterinary science at Pennsylvania State University, said that US livestock might be vulnerable to attack because many animals are not typically immunized against many diseases, and have not developed any natural immunity.

"Farms are highly accessible and people and animals are highly mobile," she said. "We have a lot of immunologically naiive animals."

Dunn said that veterinarians had been undergoing refresher training and simulations to recognize and treat a broader range of animal diseases.

"When we were in vet school, our professors used to tell us, 'If you hear hoof beats, don't look for zebras.' Today, concerns about exotic animal pathogens and bioterrorism have changed that advice to 'Don't forget to look for zebras.'"

She recommended rational control measures, such as strategic vaccinations, alternative marketing channels and a closer look at genetic diversity.

Dunn cited the differences between the avian flu outbreak in poultry last year in Pennsylvania and in Virginia. "The outbreak affected only seven flocks in Pennsylvania for one month, at a cost of $350,000," she said. "In Virginia, it affected 197 flocks for four months, costing between $100-$114 million. Virginia had to wait for results from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory at Iowa State University, and the company that owned the flocks was out-of-state and unable to act very quickly. The disease spread during that time."

Dunn, an avian specialist, has recently spent time in California working on the current outbreak of Exotic Newcastle Disease in poultry flocks.

"We need to work on our communication channels to recognize there's a problem, and make a rapid and accurate diagnosis," McPheron said. "We're all in this together." 03/20/2003 08:50 a.m.CDT

APHIS Bulletin Received
March 18-19, 2003
No link available

Wednesday, March 19, marks the annual return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano, a location within an END quarantine zone. According to Dr. Larry Berry, a veterinarian with the Task Force, it is doubtful the birds will be a risk. He says, "Like many wild birds, swallows are highly resistant to Exotic Newcastle Disease."

During the last major END outbreak in California (1971-74), a total of 9,446 wild birds were sampled. Of these, only four - one crow and three house sparrows - were infected. The crow was seen eating eggs at an infected poultry house, and the sparrows were captured inside infected poultry houses.

Traditionally, the swallows return from their winter home in Goya, Argentina, on St. Joseph's Day, March 19, and nest at the old mission church.

Victorville Daily Press, CA,27995,

Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Workshop targets bird disease
High Desert residents get tips on containing Exotic Newcastle Disease

HESPERIA — The outbreak of a deadly avian virus is contained in the High Desert, and representatives from the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force informed citizens Tuesday night how to keep it that way.

From feed store owners to rare bird breeders, about 20 High Desert residents attended the workshop in Hesperia, where a "very small" outbreak of the disease — which is harmless to humans — was found recently.

Many had questions on the disease, which has so far caused the deaths of 3 million birds in California, mostly chickens.

"It's a devastating disease," said Mike Davidson, a spokesman for the joint state-federal task force. "We're working like crazy to keep it here in Southern California, and keeping it from Central California and spreading through the rest of the state."

The disease, however, has spread to Nevada and Arizona.

Representatives from the task force, which is made up of state and federal departments, said the best thing to do to combat the problem is to take precautions to keep it from spreading. Such precautions include disinfecting shoes, equipment and tires on vehicles that may have come from another farm or a residence with a chicken coop.

Good disinfectants include Lysol and bleach solution, said Ray Hilburn, a member of the task force.

Vaccinations are available for Newcastle Disease but are only up to 25 percent effective on Exotic Newcastle Disease, he added. Exotic Newcastle Disease is a generic term for two foreign strains of velogenic Newcastle Disease virus.

But, Hilburn said, "Vaccination is a Band-Aid, not a cure."

The task force also stressed that eating the eggs or meat from a diseased chicken is completely harmless to humans.

Although only a small outbreak was seen in the High Desert, local feed store owners and those who sell poultry and their eggs have felt the pinch from the disease.

"I lost over $14,000 worth of egg sales," said Hesperia resident Mark King, owner of Gobbler's Nob Gamebird Farm. "Most of my sales are over the Internet."

King said he has raised rare turkeys for about four years and sold their hatching eggs for profit. But since he received a quarantine notice in late December, he has been prohibited from selling them.

King had planned to sell off his entire flock due to health problems, but he is now stuck with taking care of them, which he can't afford after losing the egg business.

"I was told it could be quarantined for up to two years," he said.

• For more information, call the Exotic Newcastle Disease information line at (800) 491-1899 or visit

Christina L. Esparza can be reached at or 951-6233.

Daily News, CA,1413,200~20943~1253024,00.html

Fear of Newcastle's spread makes bird owner protective
By Peggy Hager
Staff Writer

PALMDALE -- Like other exotic bird owners around Antelope Valley, Suzi Eslick is worried that a government inspector will show up on her doorstep and order that her parrots, cockatiels and lovebirds be killed.

"No trespassing" signs and locked gates greet visitors to Eslick's home, where she makes people step in a tray of disinfectant, just in case, to kill the virus that causes exotic Newcastle disease -- a deadly poultry disease that since fall has caused the destruction of more than 3 million birds in California.

"I have plastic booties so when I go to feed stores and whatnot, I put on the plastic booties and then take them off after I come out of the feed store before I go back in the car," Eslick said. "We have a spray bottle that we spray the tires on the car ... every time we go in and out."

Fighting the outbreak of a disease that has the potential to wipe out California chicken and turkey farms, state and federal agricultural officials since last fall have been testing birds and destroying infected flocks around the state -- including in Littlerock, Lake Los Angeles and elsewhere in the Antelope Valley.

The virus can be spread by droppings, so if a rancher, deliveryman or veterinarian walks among one flock and then visits another, it can travel on his shoes, state officials say. Rodents or birds traveling between one flock and another also can spread the disease.

When a bird tests positive for the disease, the whole flock is killed -- as well as neighboring birds if inspectors decide there is a way for the virus to migrate there.

Eslick is doing whatever she can to educate bird owners -- particularly other breeders of parrots and similar exotic birds -- about the threat. Exotic birds may not die from the disease, but they can be carriers and thus are targets for killing.

A meeting conducted by government experts from the exotic Newcastle disease task force will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 27 at Fire Station 129 Training Center, 42110 Sixth St. W., in Lancaster. The meeting is aimed at owners of exotic birds.

(Eslick noted that a tray of disinfectant will be there for participants to disinfect their shoes while coming and going.)

Exotic bird owners, she said, are not getting word about the outbreak, about the potential for infection from neighbors' birds, and about the measures being taken to control it.

Eslick has convinced a neighbor to cage her pigeons and chickens to reduce the possibility of infection. She is afraid that if the neighbor's flocks contract the disease, she will lose her own birds. Birds kept indoors can be spared from kill orders, but she also has an emu that lives outside.

With nearly 150 birds of her own, two of which are over 25 years old, Eslick has sharply curtailed her daily routine, limiting her contact with other bird lovers and even relatives.

Eslick's mother-in-law lives two miles away in an area that had an outbreak; Eslick hasn't seen her in two months.

"In full honesty, I don't even leave my house much," she said. "I volunteer at a soup kitchen on Mondays and I do all of my running around on Mondays. Otherwise, my gates are locked and I stay home. My best friend lives out in Littlerock and we meet out in the middle of my street ... We can't even touch each other to say hi, you know, hug each other. It's terrible."

The government pays owners for the birds that are destroyed, but owners of parrots and other exotics say they are in a different situation than a rancher raising chickens he knows will end up roasted or fried.

"If you talk to a lot of bird people, these are our children. Our kids have left home and these are what we deal with on a daily basis," said Eslick, who is retired and a former director of skier services at Ski Sunrise near Wrightwood. "The big thing right now is letting people know that the task force doesn't want to kill our exotic birds, but they will."

For more information about the March 27 meeting, call Eslick at (661) 947-1588.

Wilmington Morning Star, NC
(and several other sources)

CHINO, Calif. (AP) - State officials killed 48,750 chickens at a poultry ranch after exotic Newcastle disease infected the flock.

The deadly poultry virus was discovered at the Grove Avenue chicken ranch on Friday, California Department of Food and Agriculture spokesman Larry Cooper said.

Officials also confirmed Monday that the disease was discovered at a second San Bernardino County ranch - the 20th Southern California ranch infected by exotic Newcastle disease since late December - and another 50,000 birds will be killed there.

Euthanizing is also under way at a 4,000-bird ranch in San Diego County, Cooper said, where exotic Newcastle was identified Friday.

Citing biosecurity concerns, officials are not releasing the names or locations of infected ranches whose chickens have not yet all been killed. But Cooper said both sites are within the existing quarantine area, not far from previously infected ranches.

Records released earlier this month show the virus previously hit San Bernardino County ranches in Chino, Ontario and Fontana.

Before identifying the deadly poultry virus at both the Grove Avenue ranch and the San Diego County ranch on Friday, state labs had found no new infection at commercial ranches for nearly a month. The disease had last been found Feb. 21 at Fluegge, a ranch in Valley Center, in San Diego County.

Task force reports show infection rates - including backyard bird owners - overall climbed less than 1 percent in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties over the weekend.

"We are seeing a slowdown in the number we are finding. Why that is I can't say, but right now it's a good thing," Cooper said.

The task force is now focusing on reports that some pet bird owners have brought new birds onto their property too soon after their infected flocks are killed, Cooper said.

Daily News, CA,1413,200~20943~1250832,00.html

Article Last Updated: Monday, March 17, 2003 - 4:18:35 PM PST
Daily News
Bird owners urged to attend meeting LANCASTER -- Government agricultural workers trying to stem an outbreak of a fatal poultry disease will speak at a meeting for bird owners at 6:30 p.m. March 27 at Fire Station 129 Training Center, 42110 Sixth St. W.

The meeting is aimed at owners of exotic birds such as parrots and cockatiels, which can be ordered destroyed along with chickens, ducks and turkeys during efforts to halt exotic Newcastle disease, organizers said.

More than 3 million chickens, turkeys and other birds have been killed by the disease or destroyed in California as part of eradication efforts, officials said.

Numerous backyard flocks of chickens and other birds have been destroyed in Littlerock and other areas of the Antelope Valley since the disease was detected locally, officials said.

For more information on the meeting call Suzi Eslick at (661) 947-1588. --Daily News

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, CA and San Bernardino Sun, CA,1413,203~21481~1251138,00.html,1413,208~12588~1251514,00.html

Bird virus infects another ranch
Nearly 50,000 chickens to be destroyed after latest discovery

A chicken ranch on Grove Avenue is the latest Southern California business to lose its birds to exotic Newcastle disease, state officials said Monday.

State officials killed 48,750 birds at the ranch since identifying the deadly poultry virus there on Friday, California Department of Food and Agriculture spokesman Larry Cooper said.

Monday morning, officials also confirmed the disease at a second San Bernardino County ranch - the 20th Southern California ranch infected by exotic Newcastle disease since late December. Cooper estimated roughly 50,000 birds will be killed there.

Euthanizing is also under way at a 4,000-bird ranch in San Diego County, Cooper said, where exotic Newcastle was identified Friday.

Citing biosecurity concerns, officials are not releasing the names or locations of infected ranches whose chickens have not yet all been killed.

But Cooper said both sites are within the existing quarantine area, not far from previously infected ranches.

Records released earlier this month show the virus previously hit San Bernardino County ranches in Chino, Ontario and Fontana.

Before identifying the deadly poultry virus at both the Grove Avenue ranch and the San Diego County ranch on Friday, state labs had found no new infection at commercial ranches for nearly a month.

The disease had last been found Feb. 21 at Fluegge, a ranch in Valley Center, in San Diego County.

Task force reports show infection rates - including backyard bird owners - overall climbed less than 1 percent in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties over the weekend.

"We are seeing a slowdown in the number we are finding. Why that is I can't say, but right now it's a good thing," Cooper said.

The task force is now focusing on reports that some pet bird owners have brought new birds onto their property too soon after their infected flocks are killed, Cooper said. The state requires owners to wait at least 30 days before replenishing their flocks.

"If you repopulate before the virus is out of the area, you're just inviting the spread," Cooper said.

Birds brought back onto a previously infected property too soon will be killed, he said.

Bird owners can call the task force information line, (800) 491-1899, for advice on when to restock their flocks.

Naomi Kresge can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (909) 483-8553.

National Post, Canada

Message from an epidemic
Scientists in Winnipeg are using live foot-and-mouth virus to defend North America against an outbreak
Margaret Munro
National Post
Monday, March 17, 2003

The virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease, which has not been seen -- or allowed -- in Canada for more than 50 years, is replicating in a Manitoba laboratory.

The tiny microbe, responsible for the national disaster in the United Kingdom that saw millions of animals slaughtered in 2001, has been imported from Britain by scientists at the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, a federal facility located in Winnipeg.

The scientists are growing several different strains of the virus in the centre's lab and using them to infect animals for research and to give veterinarians a first-hand look at the disease.

Officials and scientists say they are confident the highly infectious virus can be contained at the Manitoba facility, which they describe as one of the most secure labs on the planet.

Only one U.S. lab is allowed to work with the foot-and-mouth virus, and it is located on Plum Island, 10 kilometres off the Connecticut coast. U.S. rules forbid use of the virus at high-level biohazard labs on the U.S. mainland.

The Canadian government gave scientists approval to import the virus to the Winnipeg lab after consultations with American authorities and livestock officials.

"The last thing we wanted was a trade embargo," says Dr. Paul Kitching, the centre's director.

Officials say they consider work on the virus an "essential" aspect of emergency preparedness.

"At the end of the day, Canada is the largest exporter of pigs and pig products in the world and the third-largest exporter of cattle and cattle products," say Dr. Kitching. "That would stop overnight if there were an outbreak of food-and-mouth disease. It would cost billions."

Several vials of the virus, carefully tucked in a crash-proof canister, touched down at Winnipeg International Airport last year in a cargo aircraft and were whisked to the federal lab near the city centre.

There, the viruses joined a collection of nasty pathogens including the microbes that cause Ebola and Lassa fever, deadly human diseases, and hog cholera and lumpy skin disease, which afflict animals.

Even in microbial company of that kind, the virus for food-and-mouth disease stands out, largely because it is so contagious and could have such a devastating economic impact if it ever got loose.

The virus has escaped from labs in the past. Italian scientists accidentally turned it loose in farm yards in the 1980s when they inadvertently produced vaccines that contained live, instead of dead, virus.

But Dr. Kitching and his colleagues are adamant that is not going to happen at their new high-security lab, located within blocks of a residential area near downtown Winnipeg.

"Once you walk in the door, any concerns you have evaporate," says Dr. Kitching, who has toured hundreds of livestock producers and U.S. officials through the gleaming new facility. "If it is going be safe anywhere, it is going to be safe here."

For Dr. Kitching, the virus is an old foe. He spent close to 20 years studying the tiny microbe -- and its incredible ability to spread -- at Pirbright Laboratory in Britain before joining the Winnipeg centre in 2001. While no threat to human beings and rarely fatal to animals, the virus is highly contagious. It produces blisters on hooves and mouths that weaken and debilitate the infected creatures.

Dr. Kitching has seen the virus unleash its cellular destruction on animals from Asia to Africa. He has tracked it as it was wafting out of barnyards full of infected pigs. And he watched in dismay as the virus -- and the panic it created -- took hold in the United Kingdom in 2001.

The outbreak was devastating both to British agriculture and tourism, as more than four million animals were slaughtered and heaped into piles and burned. The cost was said to exceed $30-billion.

It turned out that as many as two million healthy animals were needlessly slaughtered because the British government was given bad advice from computer modellers who said the cull had to continue long after the virus had stopped spreading, says Dr. Kitching, who hopes North America will learn from the British disaster.

Bringing the virus to Winnipeg is meant to speed up the learning curve.

Dr. Kitching has imported seven different types of the virus -- some more virulent and contagious than others. They are being used for several research projects, and to produce reagents and tests that would be needed in the event of an outbreak.

Select groups of veterinarians are also being given a first-hand look at a disease caused by the virus that has not been seen in Canada since an outbreak in Saskatchewan in 1952.

Dr. Jim Goltz, a provincial veterinarian in New Brunswick, was among 25 animal disease specialists who were in Winnipeg last month for the first course featuring animals that had been infected with foot-and-mouth disease.

"It was incredible," says Dr. Goltz. The 12-day crash course also included Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza (highly contagious poultry diseases), Blue Tongue (a viral disease in cattle and sheep) and Pseudo-rabies.

He says about 40 animals were infected with the different microbes and the vets watched the diseases and their symptoms progress. The animals were confined to cubicles in the biohazard lab once they had been infected. The vets had to change into lab clothes -- including government-issue boots and underwear -- for their daily sessions with the animals. On the way out they had to strip down and take two showers -- each one a mandatory three minutes -- before they could leave the building. They were also required to blow their noses, and soak their glasses in disinfectant for 20 minutes as part of the decontamination routine.

Dr. Goltz says it is unfortunate animals have to be infected. But he, like Dr. Kitching, says it is the only way to get experience with the diseases short of travelling round the world to see outbreaks as they occur. "It was an invaluable experience," he says.

The vets stress that the animals are treated as humanely as possible. They were given painkillers if needed and put down if they started to suffer, Dr. Goltz says. At the end the course the animals were euthanized and the vets preformed necropsies to explore the damage the microbes had inflicted inside the animals, such things as the blisters and lesions the foot-and-mouth virus can generate all the way down animals' tongues.

While the virus produced plenty of blisters on the hooves and mouths of the four calves and pigs infected for the course, it had a much more subtle effect on two infected sheep, producing only one small blister on one animal. "It would be so easy to miss it in sheep," Dr. Goltz says The most obvious sign that the sheep were sick was that they developed fevers, a symptom common to many diseases.

Dr. Goltz hopes never to see the virus loose in Canada. But he, like many animal disease specialists, feels it may just be a matter of time. And having access to the live virus, they say, puts Canada is a much better position to respond.

"You need to get people working with the virus so they won't be frightened of the damn thing," says Dr. Kitching. Front-line workers, he says, "need to be able to work comfortably with the virus and be able to say, 'Yes, I can do the diagnosis and provide the diagnostic support for the agricultural community.' "

He says the work on the virus in Winnipeg will also make the country more independent and capable of reacting quickly to an outbreak. Until now Canada and the United States relied on a British lab to provide reagents used in tests to determine whether animals are infected.

Dr. Kitching's staff of close to 60 scientists are now making reagents for the seven different varieties of foot-and-mouth virus they imported from a British lab. This time-consuming process entails growing the viruses in tissue cultures, infecting rabbits and guinea pigs and then collecting the antibodies the animals' immune systems produce against the virus. The antibodies are used to make test kits that can, within 24 hours, tell if an animal is infected.

The scientists are also doing research on more rapid diagnostic tests, which Dr. Kitching says could be taken to farms and reveal within 15 minutes whether an animal is infected.

Time, he notes, is critical. A single pig infected with one of the more virulent strains of foot-and-mouth disease can spew out enough virus to infect about 30 million cattle in one day, Dr. Kitching says.

The virus is a small and simple organism. But it comes in many different guises. One strain found in southeast Asia infects only pigs. "Others are cattle-specific and don't like pigs," Dr. Kitching says.

Some travel easily by air: Plumes of aerosol from pig farms have been known to travel as far as 250 kilometres over water and 10 kilometres over land, while others do not.

One reason the disease spread widely in Britain before it was detected in 2001 is because of the different ways the virus behaves in different animals, especially the lack of symptoms exhibited in sheep.

Pigs are veritable virus factories. An infected animal will typically pump out 3,000 times more virus than cattle infected with the same microbe, Dr. Kitching says. No one knows why.

Nor can scientists explain why animals that have been vaccinated against foot-and-mouth disease can pick up and carry the live virus. These "carrier" animals do not get sick but there is evidence they can pass on the virus to other animals that do get sick, Dr. Kitching says. It is one of the mysteries his team hopes to explore in Winnipeg.

They are also collaborating with U.S. and Mexican veterinary services to maintain vaccine stocks that could be used in the event of an outbreak.

The British outbreak in 2001 is believed to have been caused by a virus that arrived on illegally imported pork products from Southeast Asia, some of which found its way into restaurants. Left-overs ended up in swill that a farmer fed to his pigs -- failing to boil it as required by law.

The farmer, who was eventually prosecuted, failed to report that his pigs were diseased for almost three weeks. The virus wafted on to nearby farms infecting pigs, cattle and sheep. Infected sheep, with no sign of disease, were shipped to market.

The resulting outbreak paralyzed not only farming but tourism, as authorities closed footpaths and restricted travel. The British government compounded the crisis by following bad advice on how to handle the outbreak, says Dr. Kitching, who at the time was head of the foot-and- mouth division at Pirbright Laboratory, the world's leading centre for research on the disease.

He and other vets at the lab, who had identified the strain of virus causing the outbreak, soon were confident it was under control. But the government, which was heading into an election, ignored their recommendations and decided to act on the computer modellers' dire predictions that the disease would run out of control for many months.

Dr. Kitching generated plenty of headlines in Britain before leaving to take up his new job in Winnipeg. (He had accepted the job before the outbreak.) He said the computer models were based on "a total suspension of common sense."

Dr. Kitching says computer models are only as good as the information fed into them, and notes the problem with the British models was that they were based on incorrect information about the type of virus circulating. It was not nearly as easily spread by infected herds as predicted.

Two years later, Dr. Kitching says there are many lessons to be learned from the British experience. Apart from not relying too heavily on "very fashionable" computer models, he stresses the need to respond quickly to an outbreak and have ready access to resources -- trained vets, tests and reagents -- to contain it.

Even though the virus has not been on the loose in Canada in more than half a century, he says it is important to remember that it could slip into the country. It is believed the 1952 outbreak in Saskatchewan started when someone tossed a sausage from Europe into a farmyard.

Though few Canadians have ever seen foot-and-mouth, Dr. Kitching says "people need to have the disease in the back of their minds."
© Copyright 2003 National Post

Wyoming News, WY

Exotic bird disease may be headed to Colorado

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) - State officials fear a deadly bird disease is headed to Colorado.

The disease, known as Newcastle, can kill entire flocks of chicken, said Ron Ackerman, the state's director of animal health and disease control.

The disease spreads through body fluids such as blood. It is highly infectious and typically kills 100 percent of unvaccinated flocks.

It has spread from Mexico into southern California and recently has spread to Arizona and Nevada. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent $40 million to kill infected flocks and compensate owners.

While the disease hasn't arrived in Colorado yet, state officials are preparing for what they say is inevitable. Colorado's county extension offices have been set up as drop-off points for birds that die suspiciously, so they can be tested for the disease.

Greeley Tribune, CO ory=NEWS&ArtNo=303160033&Ref=AR

Article Published March 17, 2003
Deadly bird ailment will affect state
Officials: Exotic Newcastle disease making way here
Story by Annie Hundley

When chickens catch it, sometimes they just drop dead. Where the disease settles, entire flocks are killed to prevent the spread.

But exotic Newcastle disease is spreading, and it’s heading to Colorado.

“This disease is only a tankful of gas or two away,” said Dr. Ron Ackerman, the state’s director of animal health and disease control. That’s a scary prospect for Weld County poultry owners.

Exotic Newcastle disease spreads through body fluids such as blood. It is highly infectious and typically kills 100 percent of unvaccinated flocks.

The disease arrived from Mexico in southern California and recently has spread to Arizona and Nevada. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent $40 million to kill infected flocks and compensate owners.

Estimates of damage-control costs range between $250 million and $500 million before the disease runs its course.

While the disease hasn’t arrived yet, state officials are preparing for what they say is inevitable. Colorado’s county extension offices have been set up as a drop-off point for birds that died suspiciously, so they can be tested for the disease.

The disease first appeared in southern Californian backyard flocks, but then spread to more than a dozen commercial flocks. More than 3 million birds have been killed in California.

More recently, backyard birds have been killed in Nevada and Arizona with more plans for depopulation on the horizon. When the disease hit southern California in 1971, 12 million birds were killed through 1974, when the disease was eradicated.

Commercial chicken and turkey operations have little need to transport poultry far from the plants where the birds are usually born, fed, grown and killed.

So how did the disease get from Mexico to California and now throughout the Southwest? Officials suspect cockfighters.

Cockfighting, the practice of tossing two birds in a ring where they often fight to the death, is illegal but not rare. Fights are even advertised in trade magazines.

Some cockfights happen on a small, local scale. But often cockfighters will gather from a dozen or more states at a large fight where crowds join for gambling and entertainment.

That’s where exotic Newcastle enters the picture.

Say a cockfighter from Weld County took his 10 best roosters to a big fight in Las Vegas. It would be entirely possible for one rooster to fight a Nevada rooster, the two birds cut each other with the sharp razors attached to the back of their legs, and the infected rooster transmits the disease to the healthy one.

The cockfighter then returns to Weld County, and the newly infected rooster spreads the disease to the rest of the flock.

The disease can survive for a short time on inanimate objects, and infected blood could theoretically get on a truck tire and be taken from farm to farm unknowingly.

This scenario worries Ackerman because he fears a cockfighter with a dead, illegal flock won’t be inclined to alert authorities for fear of being charged with cockfighting, a felony in Colorado.

“We’d just drive this further underground than it already is” if authorities focused on legal issues, Ackerman said. “That would allow the disease to simmer much longer.”

While no one can know for sure, many think cockfighting is an active pursuit in Weld County.

In January, Weld Animal Control Officer Gary Schwartz made the biggest cockfighting bust in his 11 years on the job. Schwartz found 100 roosters altered for fighting, all stored in individual cages so they didn’t prematurely kill each other in the Fort Lupton back yard.

In the past six months, Schwartz has made three of these busts. “I know I have info on other people that have them,” he said. “But the problem is we have to have probable cause to go on the property. We can’t just waltz onto their property.”

Schwartz said typically these busts happen by accident. A Platteville operation was found when deputies responded to a domestic violence call. Suspicion of the Fort Lupton case started when a county zoning worker spotted the rooster-filled back yard.

District Attorney Al Dominguez said he sees few of these cases, but not because they don’t exist.

“You’ve got to catch them first, and we really don’t have large amounts of law enforcement to be blanketing the county,” Dominguez said. “And since we have so many open spaces, it’s easy for them to have these competitions and get past law enforcement.”

The transportation of these birds now may be tantamount to transportation of exotic Newcastle.

In response, U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., has worked to put a stop to the underground movement of these illegal birds.

An Allard-sponsored amendment to the federal farm bill will go into effect in May, making interstate transportation of fighting cocks illegal. Now Allard is pushing for an amendment that would make a violation a felony.

The Humane Society of the United States is skeptical that cockfighters will suddenly get the attention of federal law enforcement and prosecutors. Since interstate prohibitions were put in place in 1976, the federal government hasn’t enforced a single case against cockfighters, according to the Humane Society.

Idle federal enforcement and a persistent underground cockfighting scene have Colorado officials watching the second hand, tick, tick, tick.

“I think it will be just a matter of time,” Schwartz said.

The Bakersfield Californian, CA

Feathers flying over bird compensation
By MARYLEE SHRIDER , Californian staff writer
Saturday March 15, 2003, 10:02:00 PM

Taxpayers forked over more than $1,800 in compensation for a single bird destroyed in the state's battle against exotic Newcastle disease, state and federal officials acknowledged Wednesday.

How could one bird fetch so much?

Sorry, officials just don't think that's something taxpayers should know.

Who got that money?

Again, officials say you don't have the right to know.

The compensation amounts are a "very private and personal thing" between bird owners and the government, said Adrian Woodfork, a spokesmen for the combined state and federal Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force.

In fact, officials flat out refused to answer any questions about taxpayer-funded bird compensations until The Californian filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

After receiving The Californian's formal request, officials agreed Wednesday to release some figures. But then only gave a range saying owners of birds that have to be destroyed get between $5 and $1,850.

They continue to refuse to explain how they calculate the compensation and who has received how much for their birds.

Some of that money, they did acknowledge, could be going to owners of fighting cocks. Cockfighting is an illegal sport suspected of contributing to the rapid spread in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada of the highly contagious avian virus.

"It's possible, yes," said Larry Cooper, a spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which is a partner on the Newcastle disease task force along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies.

"I can only say that raising fighting cocks is not illegal. Each bird is appraised on a case-by-case basis."

More then 3.1 million chickens and backyard birds have been destroyed in an effort to stamp out Newcastle disease, which poses no threat to humans, but is lethal to birds. Bird owners, Cooper said, receive compensation at fair market value.

"Appraisers use any information that has to do with the fair market value for that particular bird," Cooper said. "Our attorneys feel that's proprietary information."

But Terry Francke, general counsel for the California First Amendment Coalition, said the public has a strong interest in how its tax dollars are spent and whether the program is being administered fairly.

"The argument for privacy at all is a stretch," Francke said. "The public has a right to know by what means one chicken is thousands of dollars more valuable than the next."

The Californian will continue its investigation.

David Demler, egg producer and part owner of Demler Enterprises in Wasco, expressed surprise at the amounts some owners have received for their birds.

"We've heard they're getting anywhere from $2 to $5 a bird," he said. "Something is not right here."

Demler and his brother Tom house about 1 million chickens at their Wasco operation, an additional 500,000 in Delano and millions more at family-run ranches in Hemet, San Jacinto, Ramona and San Diego, the heart of the Newcastle disease quarantine.

Should the disease find its way to their farms, David Demler said, they'd expect only fair market value for their chickens.

"But they can pay that here, if they like," joked Demler of the higher payments. "I'm not sure how they arrived at those prices. I guess they're just trying to eradicate the disease the best way they can."

But animal rights advocates are fuming over the possibility state and federal agencies may be awarding huge compensations to cockfighters.

Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, said cockfighting is not only cruel and illegal, it provides ideal circumstances for rapid transmission of the disease.

"At a major cockfighting derby you may have people from 12 or 14 states," Pacelle said. "There's a lot of commingling of birds. It is, if you will, the perfect storm for (Newcastle disease)."

Cockfighting is illegal in California and 47 other states, but owning and selling fighting breeds isn't -- as long as they're not owned for the purpose of fighting.

Joe Rodriguez, a Bakersfield breeder of fighting cocks, said he's never fought the birds he's raised for 10 years. What people do with the birds they buy from him, he said, is something he'd rather not know.

"My birds are not intended for fighting use, but I can't control what people do with them," he said.

Rodriguez said he has his birds tested for exotic Newcastle disease and hopes the virus doesn't make its way to Kern County.

If it does, Rodriguez said, he would insist on $500 for his rooster alone, should ag officials find Newcastle disease among his flock.

Pacelle said it's ludicrous for public agencies to pay large compensations to an industry that may have brought Newcastle disease to California in the first place. The Humane Society, he said, has appealed to the USDA to crack down on organized cockfighting and endorse recently introduced legislation that will impose felony- level penalties for violations of the federal law against animal fighting.

Provisions in the 2002 Farm Bill may be a step in the right direction, Pacelle said. As of May 2003, when the provision takes effect, any interstate movement of fighting cocks becomes illegal.

Even so, monitoring cockfights is next to impossible for local law enforcement officials who can't spare the manpower necessary to crack down on the misdemeanor crime, said Sgt. Mike Lackey of the Kern County Sheriff's Department rural crime investigation unit.

"It's really difficult in Hispanic and Filipino communities where, in their cultures, it's seen as a sport," Lackey said. "It would take a very sophisticated network to tell us when a cockfight is going to take place.

"And for a misdemeanor it's just not worth it."

Door-to-door searches for birds infected with the virus continue in areas of Southern and Central California. To date, the Newcastle disease task force program has spent more than $65 million and imposed quarantines to keep the disease from spreading north.

The last outbreak in California, in 1971, took three years to bring under control and resulted in the slaughter of 12 million birds. The state's poultry and egg industry is worth about $3 billion.

Daily Ardmoreite, OK

Exotic Newcastle Disease

You may have heard or read about recent reports of Exotic Newcastle Disease in domestic poultry. Exotic Newcastle Disease was confirmed in October 2002 in California poultry and has since been diagnosed in Nevada and Arizona. Exotic Newcastle Disease can potentially devastate the commercial poultry, pet bird and game bird industries in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is distributing educational materials to ensure that all poultry owners in our state are aware of the disease symptoms and what they can do to ensure the safety of their flocks.

Fact sheets, posters and feed sack tags have been prepared and are being distributed to feed and farm stores with the request that they attach the tags to poultry feed they sell. Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Livestock Inspectors are making these contacts, and are also contacting Flea Markets, Swap Meets and other gatherings where there may be poultry and other birds.

County OSU Extension offices will soon be receiving more related information from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture that we will be able to share with you. If you have questions, please contact your County Extension Educator.

Gainesville Times, GA

Gainesville-based Lohmann Animal Health International is offering an enhanced Newcastle vaccine, Chick ND Gold.

An inactivated vaccine, Chick ND Gold is injected into baby chicks from one to 10 days old to prevent velogenic Newcastle disease.

LAHI is a member of the PHW Group, which includes 30 companies that produce avian vaccines and poultry for the global market.

Originally published Saturday, March 15, 2003

The WorldLink.Com, OR

House OKs ban on fighting roosters
By Peter Prengaman, Associated Press Writer

SALEM - Breeders of battling roosters would no longer be able to raise the animals for fighting purposes under a bill the House passed Thursday.

The bill would also make cockfighting a felony, up from its current misdemeanor status.

Proponents say the change would bring Oregon in line with a recent federal law that bans the transport of the feisty fighters across state lines.

"There is now no legitimate reason for raising fighting cocks in Oregon," said Rep. Greg Macpherson, a Lake Oswego Democrat.

Though HB2086 passed overwhelmingly in the House, 46-9, it will likely find stronger opposition in Senate.

In 2001, a similar bill passed in the House only to be stalled and buried in the Senate. Leading the opposition was Sen. Roger Beyer, a Molalla Republican.

Beyer argued that the law was an attack on rural Oregon, and that it would even push out of business breeders who raised the birds for non-fighting purposes.

Beyer has said he'll fight the bill this session.

Discussion on the House floor Thursday before the vote was mild, with only a few lawmakers voicing opposition.

Rep. Tom Butler, R-Ontario, said possessing cockfighting paraphernalia, such as razor sharp spurs that attach to roosters' legs, shouldn't be a felony. He said a misdemeanor was appropriate, but making it a larger crime could send too many people to Oregon's already overcrowded prison system.

In a surprise move, Rep. Jeff Kropf, R-Sublimity, said he now opposed the bill. In 2001, Kropf was one of its largest supporters.

He said he changed his mind because of California's recent outbreak of Newcastle disease, a lethal bird malady.

"When cockfighting was a misdemeanor in California, owners would have their birds checked," said Kropf. "Once it was made a felony, they stopped. And Newcastle spread."

For years, animal rights' activists have pushed for Oregon to close the loophole in its cockfighting law, one they said condoned the activity within the state.

Breeders argue that they themselves are not staging cockfights, just breeding the birds for other countries and states where cockfighting is legal.

New Mexico and Louisiana are the only state where fighting the birds is still legal. In Mexico and the Philippines the activity is wildly popular in many circles.

The Oregon Gamefowl Breeders Association counts 450 breeders across the state, and estimates it's a $9 million industry.

Albuquerque Tribune, NM

What are they, chicken?

Maybe the egg does come before the chicken.

Cockfighting ban advocate Rep. Ron Godbey, an Albuquerque Republican, has new allies in his fight: egg-laying companies.

They're worried that birds transported through New Mexico for cockfighting could carry Exotic Newcastle Disease, which has wiped out millions of birds in California and led Arizona to call a state of emergency in January and block poultry-related traffic into the state.

Attorneys for egg producers in Arizona, California and New Mexico met with Richardson's staff Thursday, asking for an immediate emergency ban on cockfighting, to slow bird traffic.

Godbey welcomes the support. His bill made it out of the House Judiciary Committee on a 9-0 vote and is headed for a vote on the House floor.

"It's never even made it out of committee before," Godbey said in wonder.

Union-Tribune, CA

Avian virus infects 2 more poultry ranches
By Elizabeth Fitzsimons
March 15, 2003

A small North County poultry ranch and one in San Bernardino County were added yesterday to the growing tally of commercial operations infected with exotic Newcastle disease, the deadly avian virus that has spread across Southern California.

The spread among poultry ranches had appeared to slow and task force officials were guardedly encouraged, but they said there was no way of telling when they would gain control over the disease.

"I don't think we can really make any predictions until we aren't making any findings at all," said Larry Cooper, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The newly infected ranches bring the state total to 19, six of which are in north San Diego County.

Exotic Newcastle disease is harmless to humans.

The state and federal Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force would not reveal the ranches' names or locations. But Cooper said the 4,000-bird ranch in this county was close to others that had been infected.

Of the previously infected ranches, four were in Valley Center and one was in Ramona. All birds at the North County ranch and the 40,000 at the ranch in San Bernardino County will be destroyed.

The task force also added two more backyard, or pet, cases to the list, one in Valley Center and one in Escondido, bringing that total to 12.

However, four of the cases in Valley Center are considered "dangerous contacts," which means the birds had not tested positive for exotic Newcastle but were a risk due to their high level of exposure to an infected site.

The outbreak, first confirmed in backyard birds in the city of Compton in Los Angeles County last October, has forced authorities to euthanize 3 million birds.

Elizabeth Fitzsimons:
(760) 737-7578;

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