Vesicular Stomatitis

Earlier today, Veterinary Services confirmed vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) infection (New Jersey serotype) on an equine premises in Otero County, New Mexico.  This is the first detection of active VSV in the United States since June 2010.

Heads-up folks. Looks like we may be in for a bumpy ride this fly season (as there is indication that VS tends to be associated with certain biting midges/gnats.)

You can find VS’ Fact Sheet at that link. You can also review history of recent outbreaks.

I’ll be posting more information and any changes in entry requirements to AZ as soon as we’ve assessed the situation.

UPDATE 2012-04-30 4:19 PM MST

The infection is in equine residing in Otero County outside the town of Tularosa. Two horses in a herd of five have been found to have lesions caused by Vesicular Stomatitis Virus.

The animals in question are under quarantine by order of the New Mexico State Veterinarian. None of the five horses in the herd has been off the premises during the last 12 months.

In co-operation with USDA-Veterinary Services, the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB) is conducting  surveillance examinations of all livestock in the immediate area.  At this time no further cases have been identified.

The confirmation of this case is the first to be reported in the U.S. this year. As a Foreign Animal Disease this case will be reported internationally to the OIE (the world Organization for Animal Health), as well as nationally to all states.

Disease Surveillance Along The Border

I started this post a few months back when asked by someone from Homeland Security what diseases we check for in livestock crossing from Mexico. And given we’ve got stray burros from that area that we’re now handling, this is a great opportunity to give y’all some bio-security information to chew on.


I listed the diseases that I thought worth noting along with test method/s in cases where tests other than blood/serum used and info about other species involved. The ISU links are particularly helpful especially the “fast facts” for general audiences.

At yesterday’s 2012 Vector Control Conference Craig Levy made a great point. If you want to get the widest sampling of diseases, play with ticks! (Ok – he didn’t really put it that way. But that’s how the risk boils down.)

Ticks -visual/physical examination of the animal because it seems like every nasty there is rides along in/on a tick! What a great way to get introduced to your next victim/meal! And another angle we must think about: we don’t want our ticks getting infected with foreign coodies and having a pool to transmit from.

Equine Babesia (some of you may recognize this as piroplasmosis) – a couple of blood parasites from a family of the buggers that cause several problems in several species, and usually spread by ticks (though can also be transmitted by needles.)

Dourine another parasite issue – venereal disease with little indications of spread outside equine.

EIA (Equine Infectious Anemia) -think “AIDS” in the horse world. Or the term “Coggins Test” (btw Dr. Leroy Coggins was a professor of mine at NCSU.) Biting flies in nature are the main transmitters (but needles too). We’ve been battling this one in the US for a very long time (and federal rules are beginning to be formed up.)

Glanders – zoonotic (can infect humans) also other species e.g. goats, dogs, cats (think of it as an equal opportunity infector.) Glanders is environmentally very resistant – can hang around for a long time. Some of our troops in Afghanistan have encountered it. And yes, it has been used as bio-weapon in past.

Vesicular Stomatitis -we do a physical/visual examination for sores, ulcers, etc so we stop several diseases not just VS. VS can also affect cattle, swine, humans – but that’s low probability. Some of you will recognize this one. We have it crop up in AZ and other parts of the USA from time to time. The disease itself is rarely problematic for the affected horses (my experiences/observations.) But it triggers travel restrictions by just about all our neighbors on the planet.

CATTLE Brucellosis – another reason for pasteurization of milk and along with test and slaughter, brucellosis has nearly been elimination (it’s still in bison in Yellowstone, which spread it to the elk, which spread it to cattle – so definitely something we don’t want in wildlife.) This organism likes to hide inside white blood cells (yep – the thing that’s supposed to kill it!)

In people brucellosis is like having the flu for the rest of your life (known as undulant fever) though we can now successfully treat humans (but not always!) Generally causes abortions in livestock; so it’s only a concern in animals with ovaries or testicles (which is why there are restrictions on intact cattle coming from Mexico through our ports in Douglas, Nogales, and San Luis.)

Equine Brucellosis – Anyone remember or ever see poll evil or fistulous withers? That was typically caused by Brucella species as well.

Tuberculosis (TB) – milk was a significant source of human infection until pasteurization became common along with cattle testing and elimination. Recent problems in other states stem from transmission between deer and cattle. This one involves skin testing as well as blood tests (gamma interferon) that are done.

That was maybe a bit of a whirlwind tour. But it should give you something to think about if you’re thinking about strays.

Offer. Acceptance. Consideration.

Does that title phrase ring a bell with anyone? I hope so. Some folks consider that the basis of all contracts that exist. Contracts can get terribly convoluted; but they can be as simple as that.

There is a huge volume of law on contracts. Most of you probably know that a significant number of attorneys practice only contract law. So why I am pointing out something many of you may think is obvious? And what does it have to do with Roamin’ the Range?

The reason is that a tremendous number of calls which we receive are in actuality, contract disputes. Contract disputes must be settled between the parties who entered into the contract either via the courts or mediation if they can’t agree among themselves. (Legally settled that is. I suppose there are other ways. But those aren’t lawful, condoned, or a topic for discussion here.)

Let me describe a situation commonly encountered by the folks in Livestock Services.

PersonA has a horse. PersonB likes PersonA’s horse. PersonA offers the horse to PersonB for $1.00 and includes the stipulations that the horse (1) “is to be taken care of” and (2) “I will be glad to take it back if you no longer want it.” PersonB agrees; pays $1.00 to PersonA and hauls the horse home.

For this to be a lawful sale, you aren’t required to write the above down and have each individual sign it (the horse doesn’t need to sign it; but you need to have clearly identified the horse!). Verbal contracts are legal and binding – and more than a little difficult to verify or evaluate. But for everyone involved it certainly would be smart to write things down.

What is required for this to be a lawful sale is an acknowledged bill of sale (follow the link to the statute if you want to read the details. It’s a short one.)

Now let’s move along to a time down the road where PersonA drives by PersonB’s premises and sees the horse (from our scenario above.) PersonA pulls his/her car onto the shoulder of the road to take a moment to study the horse.
PersonA becomes concerned the horse isn’t in the physical condition s/he feels was defined within the agreement with PersonB. PersonA exits the car, climbs over the fence, and proceeds to examine the horse. PersonA then exits the paddock returning to the car and drives back to PersonB’s house and finds no one home.
In case anyone thinks that series of actions is wholly lawful, you have a mis-understanding which I’m trying to correct. Everything was according to Hoyle except for climbing the fence and entering the premises – that’s trespassing (and this is likely getting into the area of criminal trespass). If PersonA wanted to examine the horse, PersonA needed to ask PersonB for permission to enter PersonB’s property and handle the horse.
Let’s say the next action in this scenario is a call from PersonA to the Dept of Ag with the complaint that PersonB violated our contract and I want you to bring my horse back. Let me be clear and concise here: We do not seize property from one individual and give said property to another individual.
Next point: when we become aware of the situation (involving the agreement as described above) we will direct the complainant to pursue the contract dispute in court. If/when the court directs us to seize the horse prior to a hearing on the matter, then we will do so. And we will release the horse pursuant to subsequent direction from the court.
Certainly there can be many variations added to the scenario above that may impact actions. But in a significant number, the situation is ultimately a contract dispute. I’ll be covering variations and other scenarios along this line as time allows.
In the meantime, enjoy the ride!

Due Process

Folks, given recent events I wanted to take some time to clarify the law that applies in situations involving strays in an effort to help you understand “due process” in this matter.

Let’s begin by laying ground work – definitions – per Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS). I have excerpted some language when I felt it wasn’t relevant to this post. The citations are there so that you may look up the full text yourself if you wish.

ARS 3-1201. Definitions
In this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:
4. “Equine” means horses, mules, burros and asses.
5. “Livestock” means cattle, equine, sheep, goats and swine, except feral pigs.
8. “Range” means every character of lands, enclosed or unenclosed, outside of cities and towns, upon which livestock is permitted by custom, license or permit to roam and feed.
9. “Range livestock” means livestock customarily permitted to roam upon the ranges of the state, whether public domain or in private control, and not in the immediate actual possession or control of the owner although occasionally placed in enclosures for temporary purposes.
10. “Ratite” means ostriches, emus, rheas and cassowaries.

3-1401. Definition of stray animal
“Stray animal” as used in this article means livestock, bison or ratites whose owner is unknown or cannot be located, or any such animal whose owner is known but permits the animal to roam at large on the streets, alleys, roads, range or premises of another without permission, except that this section does not apply to livestock where the principles of a federal permit, federal allotment or federal lease are in dispute.

So to reiterate the point, a stray may include any of and only the following: cattle, horses, mules, burros, asses, sheep, goats, and swine except for feral pigs, bison, ostriches, emus, rheas and cassowaries.

Now how is this supposed to work on a day-to-day basis? 3-1402 provides the meat of the situation.

3-1402. Holding and sale of stray animals; repossession before and after sale; nonliability of state
A. Any person who finds a stray animal may attempt to locate and, if located, notify the owner where the animal may be found. If the owner is unknown or cannot be located, or the person elects not to locate or notify the owner, the person shall notify the department and the department shall follow procedures pursuant to this section.

So John/Jane Q Public may try to notify the owner, or s/he shall notify the AZ Dept of Ag when s/he locates stray. Then what?
LSO (livestock officer or inspector) notifies the owner to take immediate possession. But if no owner, LSO holds for 7 days, 14 if requested, including posting notices, all of which is followed by an auction.

B. A livestock officer or inspector who finds or is notified of a stray animal shall attempt to locate the owner and, if located, notify the owner where the animal may be found. If the owner does not take immediate possession of the animal, or if the owner or claimant is unknown or cannot be located, the livestock officer or inspector shall hold the stray animal for at least seven days, but shall hold the stray animal up to fourteen days at the request of any person or organization, and sell it at public auction to the highest bidder for cash, after giving at least five days’ notice of the sale.

Notification to the public of the auction is spelled out in Section C along with details of what, when, where concerning the auction.

C. The department shall cause notice to be posted in three public places in the justice precinct where the stray animal is held stating:
1. That the stray animal will be sold at public auction for cash to the highest bidder.
2. The location where the stray animal will be held and the location where the animal will be sold.

Statute also makes allowances for situations where an owner comes forward to claim the stray during the impound period (Section D)

D. The owner of a stray animal may take possession of the animal at any time prior to sale by proving ownership and paying the inspection fee and all expenses incurred in keeping and caring for the animal.

But if no owner comes forward, the stray sells and the buyer is provided a certificate. However if the previous owner does come forward afterward, he may reclaim the animal by paying the purchase price plus ensuing expenses.

E. If the owner of the stray does not claim the animal before the day of sale, or if the owner is unknown or cannot be located, the livestock officer or inspector shall sell the animal pursuant to the notice, and shall deliver an invoice of sale or a livestock inspection certificate to the purchaser. The owner of an animal sold may take possession of it at any time before the purchaser sells it by paying to the purchaser the purchase price paid at the sale, together with the expense of keeping and caring for the animal from the date of sale to the time the owner takes possession of the animal.

Section F involves animals going through livestock markets, so it’s not really pertinent to our discussion and not included here.

Section G spells out that we can contract for care & feeding of the animals in our custody (especially useful since we have no facilities for such operations.)

G. The director may contract with any person to handle, feed and care for stray animals taken into custody under this section. This state is not liable for the injury or death of any person or stray animal or damage to property due to performance of the contract.

The remaining sections have to do with providing documentation of the sale and handling the proceeds from the sale.

3-1403. Report by livestock officer or inspector; preliminary disposition of proceeds of sale
A. On making the sale as provided by section 3-1402, the livestock officer or inspector shall notify the division of the name of the purchaser, the time and place of sale, the amount for which the animal was sold and a description of the animal showing the marks and brands, if any, or other identifying marks and shall pay to the department the net proceeds realized at the sale.
B. The department shall place the amount realized from the sale of stray animals in the livestock custody trust fund established by section 3-1377.

3-1404. Payment of proceeds of sale to owner of stray
Upon making satisfactory proof of ownership of any animal sold as a stray within one year after the sale, the department shall pay to the owner of the animal the net proceeds realized at the sale less any expenses incurred.

Recapping “due process”:
Livestock, bison & ratites “out of place” or if owner is unknown or can’t be located are by definition stray.

Strays must be impounded and notices of such posted.

If no owner comes forward to claim (and provide some proof), statute dictates that strays be sold for cash at public auction to the highest bidder.

In years past, I’ve done this while leaning on the fence that kept the horses in. There also have been times when I’ve had personnel conduct the auction where the animal was impounded and cared for. And in many situations the only attendee at the auction was the person contracted to provide feed and care.

The highest bidder may have offered $1.00 or $10.00. Or there may not have been a bid at all. But in this manner we have fulfilled our statutory obligations. The stray can now lawfully have a new owner.

No language that I’m aware of provides for the state to take property from one person and give to another person. For AZ Dept of Ag personnel to take a stray into custody and then deliver it to another party with an understanding of ownership being attached because of convenience or expediency is subverting due process as defined in the stray statutes. And that certainly won’t pass my understanding of my obligations and duties of this job.

That was a long one! But I hope the picture is a little clearer for folks. And remember to enjoy the ride!