by SUSAN MANN
Canada’s animal disease response system received a huge “thumbs up” from the United States and two other countries after they all signed an agreement to recognize each other’s control zones during an outbreak.
By signing the agreement with Canada last month at the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) meeting in Paris, the United States, Australia and New Zealand along with Canada “acknowledge and support each other’s capabilities to zone in the case of an animal health emergency,” says Mark Beaven, executive director of the Canadian Animal Health Coalition. “It speaks well of Canada’s animal health system that Australia, the United States and New Zealand are recognizing it.”
The coalition, with members from most livestock groups, works on animal health and wellness projects and education, Beaven says.
The idea of the agreement is that in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak, such as foot-and-mouth or classical swine fever, early identification of disease-free zones, in the disease-stricken country, would enable the other participating countries to accept the continuation of trade from areas without disease.
Beaven says the biggest detail he’d like addressed in the multi-country guidance document yet to be developed is whether the Canadian government will establish regional zones "or is it going to be like the West Hawk Lake model of east-west."
Established in 2009 and managed by the Canadian Animal Health Coalition, the West Hawk Lake checkpoint site, located on the Trans-Canada highway on the Ontario-Manitoba border, collected information on livestock moving across Canada as part of a health monitoring program. The idea was to use the checkpoint to divide Canada into two regional zones, and in the event of an animal disease outbreak, the zone with the disease could be closed off to animal movements until the disease is under control.
The site closed in 2013 because of a lack of funding.
McNabb says having zones that are not being predetermined gives the government flexibility to establish a control area after a disease has been identified. "The idea is we start at a provincial level, that's one zone. But if we can zero that down even further, then the smaller that zone is the better it is for the rest of the country."
Canadian Food Inspection Agency spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau says by email the Canadian animal disease zones are not pre-determined.
She adds that the “use of zoning to control and eradicate a disease outbreak is dependent on a number of factors including the type of animal disease and how far the disease has spread.”
The agreement between Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand is similar to a deal Canada and the United States signed almost three years ago on zoning. That agreement was part of the two countries’ work related to the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC), which is aimed at improving how the two countries’ regulations mesh.
As part of the Canada-U.S. zoning arrangement, each country accepts the other’s decisions on establishing, maintaining and releasing a disease control and eradication zone in foreign animal disease outbreak situations. The same would apply to the agreement between the four countries.
The four countries’ agreement, called the Quads Zoning Arrangement, “incorporates the principles agreed to during the development of the RCC arrangement on zoning,” Jarbeau says.
Jarbeau says development of the guidance framework document will follow participating countries’ evaluation of each others’ veterinary infrastructure and disease response plans “to gain a better understanding of each other’s control and eradication strategies.” Those evaluations will happen during the year.
The guidance framework will contain the detailed information each country needs to recognize disease free zones when outbreaks occur, she says.
Rob McNabb, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association general manager, says the agreement’s four signatories are “heavily dependent on export trade of both animals and product.”
McNabb says depending on the disease, the ability for a country to establish disease-free zones in animal disease outbreak situations and have trade resumed from those zones is more critical for live animal movement than product shipments.
The United States is Canada’s best trading partner and customer, so it’s the key “in this particular agreement,” McNabb says.
As for Canada’s other trading partners that didn’t sign the zoning deal, McNabb says the four counties that did sign are fairly influential with the other 180 OIE-member countries. “I think this is a step and if these (four) countries demonstrate their level of confidence in each other’s ability to zone, then that will spread.” BF