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Sunday, January 25, 2009

More Doomed TB Infected Deer Found at Sunnyview

Order to put down deer herd protested
State tells farmers to euthanize pets after TB infection discovered

First published in print: Saturday, January 24, 2009

GHENT The owners of a Columbia County farm where a tuberculosis-infected deer was found this fall are protesting a decision by the state to euthanize their entire herd of pet animals.

State Veterinarian John Huntley said Friday the risk that seemingly healthy deer may have been exposed to the infectious illness is too great to ignore. But the owners of Sunnyview Farm said the deer were in a separate herd kept elsewhere on the farm and show no sign of infection.

"No one is enjoying having to do this," Huntley said, of his order to next week euthanize a herd of 10 red deer kept at the farm. "But we cannot take the risk that tuberculosis could spread into the wild deer population or into cattle."

The disease is transmitted between cattle and deer by nose-to-nose contact as well as by sharing feed and water.

Last year, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets euthanized three fallow deer at Sunnyview Farm after a doe was found in October to carry TB, the source of which is still unknown, Huntley said. Although the animals tested negative for TB last year, the farm's herd of red deer still do not meet the state's rules for "biosecurity" for several reasons, he said.

Both herds were handled in common pen areas, common mowing equipment was used in both fields, and the farm's hired hands worked with both herds, Huntley added.

Suzanne Meddoff, the farm's manager since 1989, disputed that, saying there was a three-year gap between when the two herds were in the common working pen and that the pasture of the red deer herd was not mowed this last season. Both herds were kept fenced in, although contact with wild animals was possible at the fence line.

All farm workers have tested negative for TB, and the state is refusing to conduct a second TB test on the red deer herd, she said, adding, "the owners of the farm are upset that the state is going to kill all their animals basically for nothing."

However, farm owners Daniel and Simon Levy have little legal recourse, she said. "The only thing we could do would be to bar the state entrance to the farm, and they would just get a court order to come in anyway."

Huntley said he understood the Levys' unhappiness, "but the opportunity for transmission, and the consequences of missing something are so significant that it requires us to take this seriously."

A federal agricultural program will compensate the Levys for the market value of the deer, he said, although because of the advanced ages of the animals that figure likely would be minimal,

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or by email at

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