A dispute over the importing of pigeons will soon come to a sad ending.
Ponoka’s Guido Pfiffner, owner of NorthStar Doves, has had 61 breeding pigeons in a nearby quarantine since the end of May after importing them from Germany.
After an original deadline of June 29 was extended, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a notice that it will seize the birds as of July 12.
”Pursuant to section 17 of the Health of Animals Act, I hereby advise you that the animal or thing described above is forfeited to Her Majesty for the reason below and may be disposed of as the Minister may direct, the CFIA notice stated.
“Reason: ALL Import conditions as specified on import permit were not met. Certification from German government authorities that a representative sample of the shipment was subjected to a diagnostic test on oropharyngeal and cloacal swabs within the 21 days prior to the shipment to demonstrate freedom from infection with Notifiable Avian Influenza (NAI) could not be provided to the CFIA staff.”
Pfiffner had been told by the CFIA that the German veterinarian health certificate provided didn’t meet the specifications of the import certificate and the agency wanted further proof.
However, Pfiffner has contended from the beginning that the birds were not sick and that German authorities confirmed the pigeons had no signs of the disease.
“They have not proven my pigeons are a health risk or have any problems,” he said after getting the notice.
In addition, he has provided letter from numerous pigeon experts that state the disease is not an issue in pigeons. As well, the CFIA was provided documentation showing the pigeons have had all the necessary shots and other checks to clear them of any sickness.
“If there was any sickness proven, I’d have them destroyed myself,” Pfiffner had previously stated.
“But, they never saw the pigeons until they had been in Canada for three weeks. Yet, they were telling me they needed to confirm that the swab tests were done. I even offered to pay for the test to be done here, but they refused that as well.”
He added the import permits for the pigeons make the distinction between poultry and pigeons, though his pigeons are being treated as if they are poultry and subject to those conditions instead.
According to CFIA assistant manager of media relations, Natasha Gauthier, the health certificates are recognized as being valid.
“But the documentation provided must show that all import conditions have been met or a shipment will not be allowed to be released from quarantine into Canada,” she said in an email reply.
“These import requirements play an important role in the efforts to protect Canadian poultry from serious diseases like Notifiable Avian Influenza (NAI). The testing requirements are in place to protect Canadian poultry from the introduction of a disease that could cost the poultry sector and taxpayers millions of dollars.”
Gauthier added that the pre-import testing requirements have not changed, but avoided answering the second part of the question which asked, if there has been no changes, then why is this shipment being held up when previous ones were approved?
There also seems to be a bit of a contradiction in the current situation, as Gauthier noted all live poultry imports are required to be swab tested for NAI both before leaving their country of origin and then again while in Canadian quarantine. However, the CFIA is not accepting the fact the Germans gave a clean bill of health to the pigeons and have refused to allow Pfiffner to pay for the tests to be done now.
“If such testing has been completed, German veterinary authorities will document this on the health certificate. Each health certificate for an import shipment must show that all import conditions have been met or the shipment will not be allowed into Canada,” Gauthier stated.
“If documentation regarding any of the import conditions is absent (e.g. a statement that the required diagnostic test on cloacal swabs was completed), the import shipment will be denied entry into Canada.”