Diseased Wagoner County sheep killed

Wednesday, April 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ The federal government ordered the slaughter of 60 sheep diagnosed with an illness similar to mad-cow disease.

The flock of Oklahoma sheep had scrapie, which is not harmful to humans but can be transmitted among animal species. It is a fatal disease that affects the nervous system.

Anthony Maher, a Wagoner farmer, contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service after one of his sheep got sick in November. Several months of testing showed the animal had scrapie.

About 60 of the animals, worth more than $25,000, were killed April 10, he said.

Maher said government officials promised to compensate him for some of his financial loss.

A new federal animal identification program will help government officials trace the origins of sick sheep.

All sheep and most goats must have identification tags before they can be sold in the state, said Jerry Finch, a sheep specialist for the Oklahoma State University Extension in Stillwater.

The ear tags will enable state and federal officials to trace the origins of animals that are diagnosed with scrapie, he said.

The disease has been found in U.S sheep for more than 20 years.