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Serving: West

North Dakota Officials Blast Federal Deer, Elk Program

Proposal to control chronic wasting disease cuts state's authority to protect ag.

North Dakota animal health officials say a national program to control chronic wasting disease in captive deer and elk is needed, but that it should not supersede tougher state programs.

"States have eagerly awaited the release of a national CWD program; however, a program which does not allow states to retain the authority to protect both their wild and farmed cervids is irresponsible," says Dr. Beth Carlson, deputy state veterinarian. "The national program should be used as a minimal guideline, just as other successful disease control and prevention programs have been used."

Carlson's comments on behalf of the North Dakota State Board of Animal Health are in response to proposed rules published by the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service that would create a national CWD program.

States are better placed than the federal government to react to a disease outbreak, she says.

"Historically, state requirements, which are more restrictive than the federal requirements, have enabled more rapid eradication of disease," she says. "Additionally, states have the ability to quickly implement interstate import restrictions, as well as intrastate movement restrictions, when a disease concern becomes apparent; while it often takes an extensive amount of time to make changes to federal requirements."

The federal program should not pre-empt state requirements on animal movement, according to Carlson.

"We strongly disagree with the proposal to move animals after only one year of monitoring," she says. "Research has proven that one year of monitoring means nothing for a prion disease, especially in a herd with a very low incidence of disease. It is reckless to allow animals to move with so little information."

CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that affects cervids – deer, elk and moose. Other TSEs include bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, scrapie in sheep and Creuzfeld-Jakob disease in humans.

North Dakota has had a mandatory CWD testing program for captive deer and elk in effect for nine years. The program requires that the carcasses of all captive deer and elk be tested for the disease. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department also has a program for testing deer killed during hunting season. No case of CWD has yet been confirmed in North Dakota.

Source: ND Department of Agriculture

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