Pigeon Fever Outbreak in CA Wild Horses Being Held for Controversial Sale


 Pigeon Fever Outbreak in CA Wild Horses Being Held for Controversial Sale

Today Forest Service killed 7 wild horses claiming that one had a positive test on October 26 for Pigeon Fever and 6 others were showing symptoms. In addition they killed 4 others; two for what they said were preexisting conditions and two acute, including a foal. 

These wild horses are being rounded up in a controversial operation that plans on selling a large number of wild horses causing fears in the public that these horses will go to slaughter. Three separate lawsuits have been filed. 

“The facility needs to be quarantined. No wild horses should be sold.” said Laura Leigh, President of Wild Horse Education, “ It is impossible to determine which horses have Pigeon Fever as many horses will be asymptomatic (showing any outward signs). This disease also has an incubation period from 1-4 weeks. There is no way to tell if someone will buy a horse and a week later it will develop a very messy disease.” 

The group states that the adoption event planned for Nov 16 and 17 should be postponed. Any other action is irresponsible.

Pigeon Fever, sometimes called dryland distemper, is caused by a bacteria that lives in the soil known as Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis.  (yes, similar to tuberculosis cells that effect humans). The bacteria, in an effected area, can live for as long as 8 months in the soil and two months in hay or bedding. 

Pigeon fever, while not usually life-threatening, is highly contagious.  While rarely contagious to humans, we can easily transfer the infection from horse to horse via our hands or equipment. Horses that share the same water, hay and have been run through the same chutes can easily infect each other. 

The disease occurs in three forms: external abscesses, internal abscesses and limb infection, also known as ulcerative lymphangitis. The most common involves huge abscesses that appear on the chest giving the “pigeon look.” Abscesses can appear anywhere and often burst. (more info on Pigeon Fever:  https://www2.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ceh/local_resources/pdfs/HorseReport-Winter2014.pdf)

The external form is rarely fatal. About 8% of horses that get the disease will develop internal abscesses; about 30-40% of those cases are fatal. About 1% of cases are the form called Ulcerative Lymphangitis that causes limbs to swell. If Ulcerative Lymphangitis is not treated early and aggressively, horses that suffer from ulcerative lymphangitis will have some residual lymphatic damage, 

There is no way to determine if an infected horse was introduced or the bacteria present in the soil of Double Devil.  Every day more horses are added to the newly constructed, permanent, corrals called “Double Devil.” 

“It is really disturbing that observers at the corrals are not being warned that their shoes, after visiting the corrals, present a risk to any horse they have at home.” continued Leigh “If you have visited the facility since the positive Pigeon Fever test on October 26, and went to your barn, watch your horses and cows; cows can transmit the strain that effects both horses and the strain that effects sheep. Conversely they can catch both forms of Pigeon Fever, the one that infects horses and the one that effects sheep.”

The event needs to be cancelled until further notice.

Euthanizing anymore horses for a non life threatening illness, because staff is not prepared to address an outbreak, may be a violation of federal law. 

Allowing the event to continue is simply irresponsible to both the public and the wild horses. 

To read more about the operation that is filled with contradictions and poor planning, click here: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2018/11/04/devil-garden-roundup-adoption-confusion-and-pigeon-fever/ 


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