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Carcass disposal conference turns up expertise

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With more than 7 million cattle, 260 million chickens, 13 million turkeys, 15 million cats and dogs-and other animals besides--an infectious disease outbreak or natural disaster could cause the loss of thousands of animal lives. It would create a huge problem for California, and how would we deal with those dead animals?

Most of us would rather not think about this issue.

Fortunately, more than 100 attendees of an international symposium July 21-23 tackled the subject, identifying new avenues of research, training and cooperation among agencies responsible for handling animal carcasses.

"Management of Animal Carcasses, Tissue and Related Byproducts: Connecting Research, Regulations and Response" was coordinated by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and hosted at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. A group of public agencies, researchers and technology companies covered several key topics.

KEY TOPICS

-Carcass disposal in response to routine mortalities, accidental deaths, natural disasters, and disease outbreaks

-Research and public policy

-Federal and state agency response and training

-Carcass management options

-Technologies for euthanasia, carcass treatment/disposal and decontamination during animal health emergencies

-Final product use and disposition

-Studies with farm animals, marine mammals and other wildlife

Keynote speaker Patricia Conrad, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, reviewed the One Health concept and urged veterinarians, medical professionals and other scientists to consider disease in a larger context of animal health, public health and environmental contamination.

Speaker Stephanie Ostrowski discussed why public health officials need to understand carcass disposal issues.

METHODS

Carcass disposal methods include rendering, burial, incineration and composting, which received much attention during the conference. Each technique has its costs and issues related to local regulation, disease prevention, water and quality protection, and ecosystem effects. New York, for example, composts road-kill animals and uses the resulting material in highway landscaping.

The international conference included presentations on mortality disposal research from the USA, Canada and other countries. The Netherlands, where all dead animals must be sent to a single rendering plant (per EU regulations), is exploring options to reduce costs, storage and transport time. Individuals from different animal sectors shared their projects with poultry, cattle and marine mammals.

RESPONSE CAPABILIITIES, CHALLENGES, RESEARCH

Sessions included talks, posters and discussion forums aimed at strengthening connections among agencies responsible for disaster response affecting animals. Research presentations addressed potential public health challenges from pathogens and drug residues in animal carcasses.

The Maine Cooperative Extension and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo demonstrated a recipe for composting animals based on locally available materials.

The USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service provided an update on the national Veterinary Stockpile of vaccines, personal protection gear and other products available to states in the event of an animal
health emergency.

Participants noted questions and concerns of authority, indemnity, and contracting with local businesses to carry out response activities.

Donald Klingborg, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, in an interview on a local radio station, said, "We're better prepared than last year...than 10 years ago, but we're still not as prepared as we need to be. Luckily, we have the right people at this meeting to take the steps to identify barriers, recognize research needed, and get policymakers together."

Program planners included representatives from:

-California Dept of Food & Agriculture

-California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA

-Compost Utilization & Systems

-Cornell Waste Management Institute

-Maine Department of Agriculture

-Maine Department of Environmental Protection

-Michigan State University Extension

-National Center for Foreign Animal & Zoonotic Disease Defense

-UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

-University of New England-Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center

-USDA-APHIS

-Virginia Dept of Environmental Quality

Listen online to interviews with Donald Klingborg and Lori Miller on "Insight," a news program of KXJZ radio in Sacramento. (Note: The interview is the final segment of the 1-hour program.)

Review conference details, speakers and topics online.