Assembly approves measure to control bird flu
STATE HOUSE – With votes in both chambers today, the General Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Brandon Potter and Sen. Dawn Euer to control potential outbreaks of bird flu and other animal diseases. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk.
The legislation (2022-H 7785, 2022-S 2751) provides the Department of Environmental Management (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 was 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.
“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).
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.
“We are grateful to DEM for being very proactive and working closely with us on this urgent legislation. With this bill, we will have the tools in place to quickly contain animal diseases, protecting our state’s farms and animals from devastation,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown).