AFA vs. USDA... 1977 Court Case Settled


On July 31, 1979 the AFA law suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture was finally settled. Filed two years and four months earlier, the case was dismissed ''with prejudice." This is a legal way of saying everybody wins, or at least nobody loses face. It was a victory for AFA in that we achieved our goal: a change in USDA's policy regarding the handling of birds suspected to have Exotic Newcastle Disease, They retained their right to destroy birds known to have the disease as well as any flocks with which infected birds had direct contact.

These past two years saw a great many hours of meetings, phone conversations, court room appearances, and "off the record" discussions on the part of AFA officers, lawyers, and individual members to reach this successful outcome. The single most important benefit of this legal action, however, was not the final court order, but the fact that we, the people concerned with birds of all kinds, finally now have a solid working relationship with the government.

The AFA lawsuit got their attention.

The fact of whether we won or lost became almost secondary to the relationship that was developing with USDA. They started to listen to us and began to understand our concerns and see that these concerns were legitimate. Many individuals working for APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) all over the country had shared our feelings for a long time bur could not easily voice their dissention until we gave them the "support" by presenting ourselves in such large and noisy numbers, both in the courtroom and elsewhere. APHIS officials took a much closer look at us and realized that our interests and the government's interests were very closely aligned. By working with AF A on exotic bird matters, the interests of the United States would be better served.

It is a double-edged sword. We who were in the thick of the battle began to comprehend, however slowly at first, the magnitude of the problem facing APHIS.

Their mission is to make the country safe for chickens. No matter how much they would like to change that mission to include other birds, they cannot. Exotic Newcastle must be kept out of the United States at any cost. If it became established it would dramatically affect the food supply. It would seem, therefore, that if APHIS is going to help us make the country safe for exotic birds (and their owners), we must help APHIS keep Newcastle out of the U.S. Fully comprehending what this means leads to an understanding of why, in recent months, AFA has cooperated wholeheartedly with APHIS on such things as locating stolen birds, etc. Our cooperation with APHIS and APHIS with AFA has become an outstanding example of how government and private industry can work together to solve common problems and avoid conflicts before they arise. Dr. Chaloux and his staff are to be complimented for the efforts they have made toward this end.

So now we have a new Newcastle policy. What does this mean for the future? First of all we can be sure there will be Newcastle in our future. The most likely times to expect outbreaks are during the months of January-April. The Quarantine stations are being diagnosed positive for VVND (Exotic Newcastle Disease) at the rate of about three stations per month. This is further confirmation of the world-wide spread of disease. Any outbreaks that affect our aviaries are not likely to come from this source, however. We are likely to get VVND this year from our old friends, the Double Yellow Heads, the Yellow Napes, the Half-Moons, the parrotlets, the Mexican Red Heads, and other birds commonly imported by A. Smuggler.

When you buy a bird that came from A. Smuggler and it is diagnosed positive for VVND what can you expect under the new policy? First, if there is an outbreak, the AFA Emergency Operations Plan may be used to notify all AF A members and member clubs. Any special instructions

will be passed on to you at that time by telephone.

Second, be thoroughly familiar with the new USDA policy: A bird coming from an infected premises will be purchased by USDA and tested for VVND. The remainder of the flock will be quarantined and possibly swabbed (Cloacal swabs can be used for VVND tests without killing the birds). If the bird from the infected premises tests negative, the quarantine on your flock will be lifted. If the bird tests positive, your flock will be "depopulated" and you will receive an indemnification based on the market value of your birds. Your birds will not be destroyed unless or until that original bird is proven to have VVND. There may be some exceptions in extreme circumstances where they can determine epidemiologically that the flock is certain to be infected. (See Exhibits B & C below).

Third, keep your AF A State Coordinator informed of all actions taken by USDA regarding your flock. If the local APHIS agent or Task Force personnel do not seem to be following the above outlined policy, notify your State Coordinator or an AFA officer immediately and action will be taken. If Task Force personnel do not seem to be using necessary sanitation procedures before coming onto your property, deny entry and contact AFA.

Now, for everyone's records, we are reprinting the final legal settlement as filed in U.S. District Court, Central District of California. Please read it through and then keep it in a safe place for reference when A. Smuggler's bird comes onto your property. Exhibits "B" and "C" are the result of our reluctance to accept a policy that would permit depopulation based on "epidemiological" evidence. Our fear was that one individual epidemiologist could arbitrarily decide that a flock was infected without laboratory proof. Dr. Atwell's responses we find to be satisfactory, but if things do not seem to be going the way he describes, notify AF A immediately.