American Federation of Aviculture® (AFA) Statement Regarding the Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) "Policy on Pet and Exotic Birds Housed in Cages within Enclosed Structures"


rHlRUARY 18, 2003

The American Federation of Aviculture' (AFA), the largest avicultural organization in the U.S., is pleased to announce an important new policy that is being implemented in California by the Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Task Force and is of great importance to all bird owners within the END quarantine zone. The State of California established the END Task Force to develop a strategy to deal with this disease and includes the lead agencies in charge of the eradication process, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

This new "Policy on Pet and Exotic Birds Housed in cages Within Enclosed Structures" will change the manner in which some birds arc handled as it now provides some exemptions and options for affected bird owners to safeguard their birds through additional isolation measures. This policy, which benefits all birds, from domestic pets to rare and exotic species, is the result of direct discussions and negotiations of the American Federation ofAviculturc (AFA) and the END Task Force.

The AFA has been extremely concerned about the outbreak of Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) in California, Nevada and Arizona. END is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect the respiratory, digestive and nervous system and that is almost always fatal. This disease poses a great danger to the US poultry and exotic bird industries if not quickly eradicated.

In order to respond in a timely fashion to this emergency situation and to provide bird owners with factual information on the crisis, Dr. Benny Gallaway, AFA's President created a working group coordinated by the Director of Education and Media Services Natasha Schischakin and comprised of I st VP Wanda Elder, N. California State Coordinator Leslie Gillis, S. California Regional Director Marty Muschinske, N. California Regional Director Barry Wold, and Avian Welfare Committee Chair Genny Wall. In addition to providing information on the END situation to the membership (primarily through existing e-mail lines of communication) the group worked to develop a strategy on how to best protect our birds.

Historical information on previous END outbreaks was researched and legal options to deal with the situation were examined. Although it appeared that in the 1970s there bad been a previous out of court settlement with the USDA, the documentation had been lost. The working group soon realized that even if the information was found, it was not likely that it could be used as a precedent in the current END outbreak and eradication policy.

The most productive option was to open a dialogue with the newly formed END Task Force and to maintain all lines of communication open, to ensure that the AFA had a voice in the developing process. It soon became clear that the END Task Force was willing to work closely with us and that the best strategy was to work jointly to institute a policy that addressed both the very serious epidemiological concerns of this deadly avian disease, while at the same time safeguarding healthy,

non-exposed birds from destruction.

Although initially confined to backyard poultry and particularly free ranging chickens, the outbreak continued to worsen with an ever increasing number of premises affected and depopulated by the END Task Force and the CDFA. The standard method for END eradication has been the destruction of all birds on premises that have confirmed positive or those that have had a direct contact or epidemiological link to an infected premise. This procedure was applied across the board to include all avian species although the outbreak focused primarily on backyard and commercial poultry facilities. The AFA was concerned that there was little differentiation in procedure for lower risk locations that had domestic poultry and other bird species, particularly pet and exotic birds housed in secure and contained situations.

It has been our position that a procedure should be in place to protect the many irreplaceable rare and endangered species that are kept by hobbyist and breeders, as well as the many pet birds that are loved by so many people.

The attached "Policy on Pet and Exotic Birds Housed in Cages within Enclosed Structures" is the official response of the Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Task Force, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to our suggestions regarding pet, cage, and other birds. The current language of the policy allows for such protection for all birds.

Of course, if it is proven that these birds are confirmed positive for the disease, or have been exposed to this highly contagious disease, then these birds should be euthanized in order to contain the outbreak and safeguard other birds.

We arc particularly pleased that the END Task Force agreed to a policy that allows for exemptions if a premise is found infected or deemed to have dangerous contact. This policy potentially allows for monitored isolation of all birds that are housed in cages within enclosed structures or in outdoor caging that meets specified conditions. This will also allow for onsite quarantine of birds if the risk of END infection is deemed to be low and the owner is willing to fulfill specific obligations.

Although initially the Task Force wanted to limit the quarantine options only to those birds that were housed in indoor facilities, the AFA was able to broaden the policy to include all birds that are housed in outdoor caging under certain conditions (that should be easily met by most aviculturists and bird owners).