Thursday, August 2, 2012

Potter Park Zoo euthanizes goats for Johnes

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LANSING — An infectious disease that afflicts hooved animals prompted the Potter Park Zoo to euthanize its goat herd in May, the zoo confirmed Thursday.

The pygmy goats contracted Johne’s Disease, which causes a gradual thickening of the lining of the intestine and eventually leads to death, the zoo said. The animals were put down to keep them from suffering and to prevent the disease from spreading to other zoo animals, it said.

“Once we discovered they were infected, we basically had to put them to sleep so they would not suffer,” said Tara Harrison, the zoo’s veterinarian and curator. “We caught it early enough that none of the other animals in the zoo were infected.”

The six goats were in the petting zoo exhibit and have since been replaced by seven baby goats that came from a farm free of Johne’s disease, Harrison said.

Johne’s Disease, or mycobaterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP), is hard to detect and afflicts cattle, deer, sheep, goats and other ruminants, according to information on a Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine Web page.

Animals typically contract the disease at a young age, but don’t show symptoms for several years.
MAP is common in goats and cattle and is present in 60 to 70 percent of the state’s goat herds, Harrison said. It can take up to three months to determine whether an animal is infected using the most reliable test for the disease, she said.

Harrison said the zoo had been managing the problem over the past year, testing each animal individually and euthanizing them when they tested positive. Toward the end, all of the remaining goats tested positive and were put down, she said.

“We don’t like to euthanize animals, but it was the most humane thing to do,” the vet said. “It was the best thing to do for the goats and the best thing to do for all of the animals here at the zoo.”
The zoo took extraordinary measures to prevent the disease from spreading to other animals, scorching the earth to kill bacteria, replacing the top three inches of soil and disinfecting the barn with bleach, she said.

Also, staff who care for the goats do not care for any of the other hooved animal species, she said.
The zoo’s other hooved residents include the critically endangered black rhino, Bactrian camel, eastern bongo and scimitar-horned oryx, along with llamas, donkeys and yaks.

The new goats are a pygmy breed and a cross of the pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf breeds, Harrison said.

“We fully intend to keep them here for their entire lives,” she said.

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