House approves measure to control bird flu
STATE HOUSE – The House today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Brandon Potter and requested by the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to control potential outbreaks of bird flu and other animal diseases.
The legislation (2022-H 7785), which now goes to the Senate, would provide the DEM authority to set up a quarantine area consistent with state and United States Department of Agriculture emergency plans to prevent the movement of domestic animals or products when there is a suspected case of a contagious animal disease such as bird flu.
The change has been requested by the DEM to help the state respond to a current outbreak of a highly contagious strain of avian influenza, which has been spreading across the nation since January and has been identified in neighboring states. While this strain does not affect humans, it is lethal to birds and can wipe out an entire flock.
Although there haven’t been any cases reported in Rhode Island yet among domestic animals, during a hearing on the bill, State Veterinarian Scott Marshall testified that he is confident it is already present in the state’s wildlife.
“Bird flu, unfortunately, is absolutely devastating to farms and livestock. If one bird contracts it, it can swiftly infect and kill the whole flock. DEM needs to be able to respond very quickly and effectively to stop it from spreading to any other flocks once it is detected,” said Representative Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston). “I commend DEM for being proactive in protecting Rhode Island and our farms and animals and working with us to set up the tools they need to control this disease before it arrives on our farms. I’d also like to thank my colleagues in the House for understanding the urgency of this legislation and swiftly passing it. None of us wants to see this disease wreaking havoc on farms and backyard flocks.”