by SUSAN MANN
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has euthanized 26 adult sheep and 11 lambs for scrapie testing after finding the animals that were stolen from Montana Jones’ quarantined farm two months ago.
But details on how and when the sheep were found and how the CFIA knows the sheep that were found were Jones’ Shropshire sheep remain sketchy. Guy Gravelle, CFIA senior media relations officer, says by email the farm where the sheep were found remains under quarantine until disease control measures are complete. He didn’t specify what those were and didn’t answer a subsequent question requesting information about them. He also didn’t respond to questions about where the farm is located.
Jones, who farms near Trent Hills just east of Peterborough, wasn’t available for comment. Her lawyer, Karen Selick, litigation director for the Canadian Constitution Foundation, says by email that the sheep were found on a private farm near Chesley in Bruce County.
The CFIA is continuing to work with the Ontario Provincial Police to find out what happened to the remaining five sheep. Thirty-one sheep were taken from Jones’ farm on April 2 just before agency officials were scheduled to euthanize them. A group or person calling itself the Farmers Peace Corp claimed responsibility and said the sheep were taken into protective custody without the owner’s knowledge or participation.
In the current situation, Gravelle says further details can’t be released now as the police investigation continues.
Phil Clarke, Northumberland County OPP community service and media relations officer, says the only information they’re releasing is that some of the sheep have been found. Clarke says the OPP isn’t releasing details on how or when the sheep were found and isn’t confirming they were found near Chesley.
The matter is still under investigation by the Northumberland OPP. “I hope the investigation comes to a conclusion fairly shortly.”
Selick writes that when Jones went to the farm in Chesley to see if she could confirm whether the sheep were hers, “the OPP guarding the property wouldn’t let her approach the sheep, apparently under instructions of the CFIA.”
In its June 8 press release, CFIA says the sheep pose a serious risk for scrapie, a fatal neurological disease of sheep and goats. Scrapie can spread among sheep and goats and often shows no signs in infected animals. All susceptible exposed animals are humanely euthanized, the release says.
There aren’t any human health risks associated with scrapie, but the disease has serious impacts on sheep and goat production and trade. The CFIA, with the full support of the livestock industry, aims to eradicate it from Canada.
Jennifer MacTavish, executive director of the Canadian Sheep Federation, says in the industry’s efforts to eradicate the disease, the CFIA’s locating the missing quarantined sheep is “very good news.” But she added that “it is understandably upsetting for Ms. Jones and all around a regrettable situation.”
MacTavish says the only details about the find the federation has been given were in the CFIA’s April 8 press release.
The federation is concerned if the farm where Jones’ sheep were found had goats or sheep. The disease is spread primarily through the placenta, she says.
MacTavish says she doesn’t know if the decision to quarantine the location where the sheep were found means it is a sheep farm. The prions that cause scrapie can live in the environment for several years “so it could be a precautionary measure by the CFIA. It doesn’t necessarily mean the farm has small ruminants on it.”
It could just mean the farm needs to be cleaned and disinfected, she explains.
Driving Jones’ sheep from one farm to another doesn’t pose a risk for other sheep in the countryside. But if the sheep had lambs on the truck then the truck needs to be cleaned and disinfected, she says. BF