The Maryland Department of Agriculture recently announced a mandatory Domestic Poultry and Exotic Bird premises registration program.
In 2005, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation requiring poultry registration to help prevent or rapidly contain diseases such as exotic Newcastle disease and avian influenza. The mandatory state program is separate from the voluntary National Animal Identification System through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Lewis R. Riley, Maryland's agriculture secretary, said poultry is the state's No. 1 agricultural commodity. He said the purpose of the registration program is to protect backyard flocks as well as commercial operations. The agriculture secretary will not disclose the identity of registrants unless, after consultation with the secretary of health and mental hygiene, he determines disclosure is necessary to protect public health or prevent the spread of disease.
The premises registration process will begin with backyard flocks, including fair and show birds, and proceed to certain categories of exotic and pet birds and finally to commercial operations. The Maryland Department of Agriculture will convert registration information for commercial operations that participate in other egg and poultry health programs.
The Maryland General Assembly created the mandatory registration program following a 2004 outbreak of avian influenza on the Delmarva peninsula. The program will help identify and locate poultry populations, such as backyard flocks, that owners have not registered with industry groups or the state.
Maryland isn't the only state with a poultry registration program. For example, Texas adopted a law in 2003 requiring the Texas Animal Health Commission to develop a registration program for fowl sellers, distributors, and transporters who do not participate in poultry or fowl disease surveillance programs.
Texas' Domestic and Exotic Fowl Registration took effect in 2004. It primarily targets domestic fowl such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and game fowl that owners raise for food, eggs, or agricultural exhibition. But dealers, distributors, or transporters of exotic or pet birds must register if their birds commingle with domestic fowl.