One of the sheep remaining at a quarantined southeastern Ontario farm where 31 sheep disappeared last month has been confirmed positive for scrapie.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed in a release April 27 that a sheep that had died on the farm operated by Linda Montana Jones near Hastings, Ont., had the fatal nerve disease.
The farm was placed under quarantine after another sheep in Alberta that originated from the Jones farm tested positive for scrapie, CFIA said.
Scrapie is a federally reportable livestock ailment from the transmissible spongiform encephaolpathy (TSE) family of neurodegenerative diseases, such as BSE in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people.
The finding further complicates Jones’ well-publicized efforts to prevent her flock from being destroyed and tested — as CFIA officials had reportedly planned to do on April 2. However, on that day, 31 of the farm’s 41 animals were found to be missing.
According to an earlier statement from Jones, an unknown party identifying itself as the “Farmers Peace Corp” left a note claiming responsibility for the sheep-napping. Ontario Provincial Police are still investigating.
Karen Selick, a Belleville, Ont. lawyer for the Calgary-based Canadian Constitution Foundation, representing Jones, has previously alleged all of the condemned animals on the quarantined farm have tested negative for scrapie in live biopsies and none of the flock showed clinical symptoms of scrapie in the 12 years Jones has raised sheep.
The CFIA release said the missing sheep pose a serious risk for scrapie and could spread the disease to other sheep and goats and that any premises that receive the missing sheep will be subject to “a quarantine and further regulatory action” which could include criminal prosecution under the Health of Animals Act.
A single sheep Jones sold to an Alberta farm in 2007 was later found to have scrapie, the foundation said previously, also alleging scientists can’t accurately determine when or where the Alberta case acquired the illness.
“Scrapie investigations truly are regrettable, emotionally charged scenarios that impact both the producer and the industry,” Andrew Gordanier, chairman of the Canadian Sheep Federation, said in an April 3 release.
“However, sheep disappearing in the middle of the night is making an already difficult situation even worse,” said Gordanier, a producer at Shelburne, Ont.
“Moving potentially diseased animals during their greatest period of infectivity risks spreading the disease to an even larger number of animals,” the chief executives of five livestock groups, including the CSF, Canadian Livestock Genetics Association, Canadian Sheep Breeders Association, Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency and Ontario Goat said in a joint letter on April 5.
“What was initially a destruction order for 41 animals could quickly turn into the required destruction of hundreds of potentially infected sheep and goats.”