Pennsylvania Ag Secretary, State Veterinarian: New Animal ID Rules Help Track Disease, Prevent Outbreaks

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and State Veterinarian Dr. Kevin Brightbill reminded small-ruminant producers that new requirements for scrapie tags and premises IDs will help ensure better, faster disease tracing and control. Adhering to new federal requirements will help keep scrapie instances from becoming full-blown outbreaks, ultimately saving producers from devastating livestock and financial losses.

“We have made significant progress in eradicating this costly and fatal disease,” said Redding. “Our commonwealth must continue efforts to ensure the protection of our herds and flocks from scrapie as it threatens Pennsylvania agriculture. Establish a premises identification number for your herd or flock.”

Scrapie is known to be transmissible from infected to uninfected sheep and goats through exposure from birthing fluids and tissues.  Clinical signs may be noticed 18 months to 5 years after exposure and include progressive weight loss despite no decrease in appetite, difficulty walking, fine tremors/shaking of ears and head and, most notably, extreme itching.  At this time, there is no vaccine to protect animals against scrapie, and there is no known cure or treatment for the disease.

Scrapie is a fatal infectious and progressive disease affecting the brain and spinal cord of sheep and goats and belongs to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs),” said Brightbill. “There is no evidence humans have ever been infected with scrapie.”

In August 2018, a Pennsylvania goat sampled at slaughter in July 2018, was confirmed positive for classical scrapie. The goat was traced to a Pennsylvania herd that has both sheep and goats. The herd was designated as a source flock by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  An additional five sheep and one goat were confirmed positive for classical scrapie within that herd at the time of partial herd depopulation. Only sheep and goats shown to be genetically susceptible to scrapie were depopulated.

To establish a premises identification number (PIN) for your herd or flock please visit the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Premises Registration Form to enroll your premises.

After a PIN has been established, dial USDA’s toll-free tag line at (866) 873-2824 to order scrapie tags for your herd or flock. The Pennsylvania Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (PVL) is offering genetic screening for owners interested in identifying scrapie resistant animals in their flocks. To find out more ask your veterinarian or call PVL at (717) 787-8808. Additionally, USDA APHIS offers free scrapie testing for deceased animals over the age of 14 months.

All sheep and goats born in Pennsylvania must be identified with a PDA-approved form of official individual identification, prior to being transported live off the birth premises.  No sheep or goat, of any age, shall be imported or shipped into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania without a department-approved form of individual identification. Additionally, per the Final Rule of the National Scrapie Eradication Program, all sheep and goats must be accompanied in transit by either a valid Interstate Health Certificate or owner shipper statement if the animals are moving in slaughter channels.

Up until January 1, 2021 the department will offer educational outreach and written notices of violation to gently prompt compliance.  After January 1, 2021, entities failing to comply will be subject to enforcement and penalties as are allowed under the provisions of Pennsylvania’s Domestic Animal Law, including revocation of license, criminal prosecution and/or civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation and injunctive.

Additional questions may be addressed by calling the Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services at 717-772-2852 or Questions directed toward USDA APHIS may be addressed by calling Dr. Stephanie Ringler at 717-599-9957.