‘Some’ of quarantined Ont. farm’s missing sheep found

An unspecified number of the sheep that went missing from a scrapie-quarantined farm in eastern Ontario in April have been found.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced late Friday that it had located "some" of the 31 sheep that went missing from Linda Montana Jones’ farm at Hastings, Ont., about 35 km east of Peterborough.

An agency spokesperson would not say Monday how many of the sheep were found, but did say some remain missing. The agency said it plans to test the recovered animals for scrapie, a post-mortem process that would require the animals to be destroyed.

Citing privacy concerns, the CFIA would not say where in the province the sheep were found, except that they were "on a private farm" which is now also under quarantine. The CFIA said it would take "further disease control measures" at the property.

An online report Friday from National Post senior reporter Adrian Humphreys said 28 of the animals were found at a property near Chesley, about 135 km west of Barrie.

An OPP spokesman said Monday that the police would also not comment further on the specifics of the case, other than to say no charges have yet been laid relating to the animals’ disappearance.

The Jones farm at Hastings was quarantined in January 2010, after a single sheep she sold to an Alberta farm in 2007 died and tested positive for scrapie.

A CFIA official said last month that the 31 animals, which disappeared just before they were to be destroyed and tested, were a group sorted from Jones’ flock as having a genetic susceptibility to the disease.

Jones has previously said the sheep vanished sometime overnight before April 2, with only a note left behind from an unknown party called the "Farmers Peace Corp" claiming responsibility.

"Serious impacts"

Jones, with help from the Calgary-based Canadian Constitution Foundation, has waged a public campaign to prevent her animals, which she describes as rare Shropshire sheep, from being destroyed and tested.

A foundation lawyer from Belleville, Ont. on April 19 filed an application with the Federal Court of Canada, seeking a judicial review to overturn the CFIA’s destruction order for Jones’ animals.

Scrapie is a federally reportable livestock ailment from the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) family of neurodegenerative diseases, such as BSE in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people.

Always fatal in infected animals, scrapie has a long incubation period and there is no known 100-per-cent-effective live test. Infected animals can spread the disease in flocks and herds without showing signs of illness, thus CFIA requires all susceptible, exposed animals in a quarantined group to be "humanely euthanized."

There is no known human health risk associated with scrapie, but it has "serious impacts on sheep and goat production and trade," the agency said Friday.

Apart from the Alberta case, CFIA has tested 10 other animals from the Jones farm, one of which died on-farm and came up a "very strong positive" for scrapie when tested in late April. Nine others were later destroyed and all tested negative.

Related stories:
Barnmates of missing Ont. sheep negative for scrapie, May 4, 2012
Scrapie-quarantined sheep vanish from Ont. farm, April 3, 2012

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