THE DPI in Victoria has lifted the temporary ban on pigeon movement in Victoria as of March 25. Here is a letter from chief vet Dr Andrew Cameron explaning the decision to a fancier who had written to express concern.
The temporary ban was implemented in September 2011 with the support of both pigeon racing and showing peak bodies for a period of 3 months. This was extended for a further 3 months, ceasing on 25 March 2012. The prohibition was put in place to reduce the mixing of Pigeon Paramyxovirus Type 1 (PMV1) infected pigeons with naïve pigeon populations and thereby reduce the spread of disease, and to determine the scope and long term ability to contain the disease. Due to the actions of the majority of pigeon owners in implementing good biosecurity practices and through adhering to the ban, the disease appears to have been confined to the Greater Metropolitan Melbourne area, where unfortunately infection is now endemic in feral pigeons.
The national Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Disease (CCEAD) convened a group of experts to assess the information available about the safety and efficacy of Newcastle disease vaccine in inducing immunity to PMV1 in pigeons; their advice is that such vaccination will provide protection, and that people with pigeons at risk of exposure should vaccinate their birds. With such a vaccine, owners of pigeons have the ability to protect their birds against development of clinical disease, and to mix them with other birds in situations such as races and shows. DPI has met with the pigeon peak bodies to discuss the vaccine and strongly recommends that any industry sponsored pigeon gatherings be confined to vaccinated pigeons.
Clearly there is a need at some point in time for normal activities to resume for Victoria’s pigeon industry. In consultation with the pigeon industry, DPI has assessed that time as now.
With the above factors in mind, and the now endemic nature of PMV1 over a significant area of Victoria both in domestic and feral pigeons, it is time for pigeon owners to manage their individual risks through biosecurity practices to keep the virus out of their loft, and with vaccination to protect their loft should the former prove inadequate. In my view, vaccination offers the prospect a return to some of the normal aggregation activities involving pigeons. Although other jurisdictions are likely to maintain restrictions on movement of Victorian pigeons, these restrictions may be revised in time and in view of the overall epidemiological situation.
This approach has met with agreement of the peak bodies who are exploring options for returning to some degree of normalcy whilst adequately mitigating the risk to pigeon owners.