Indiana's statewide ban on bird shows imposed in response to a deadly avian flu was relaxed Friday after officials tweaked the emergency rule to allow owners of parrots, canaries and other non-poultry birds to resume showing and selling those animals at flea markets and other settings.
The State Board of Animal Health voted 8-0 Thursday in favor of a package of changes to the ban. One change, which took effect Friday, means parrots, canaries and other songbirds as well as doves and pigeons can once again be part of exhibitions, sales and other events where the animals are commingled.
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Board of Animal Health spokeswoman Denise Derrer said the panel also voted to end on Sept. 17 Indiana's ban on poultry shows, which has kept chickens, ducks and other birds from summer county fairs and the Indiana State Fair in August.
That ban prompted officials of agricultural youth group 4-H to adopt alternative plans, including using photos and toy chickens as stand-ins for the real thing, to allow youngsters who raised poultry through 4-H programs to make presentations on their animal-raising skills at their county fair.
"This change isn't really going to impact the county fair season because most of them are done by the first week of August. So they'll pretty much stay the course under the poultry ban for the county fairs," Derrer said Friday.
She said the only county fair held after Sept. 17 is northeastern Indiana's DeKalb County Free Fall Fair, which runs Sept. 28-Oct. 3.
Lynne Wahlstrom, that county's Purdue Extension educator for 4-H youth development, said local 4-H officials are still assessing the change that could potentially allow youngsters to show their poultry at the fairgrounds in Auburn.
"We're going to get that figured out, probably next week, when everybody has time to get together and talk," she said.
Derrer said the plans to lift the poultry show ban in September could change if more avian flu cases emerge. She said there have been no new U.S. cases of the disease since June 17, but officials are keeping watch for additional cases.
She said the board relaxed the ban largely based on epidemiological data on how the avian flu is spread and what species it afflicts.
That illness killed nearly 50 million birds, primarily chickens and other commercial poultry, mostly in the Upper Midwest. Indiana's only confirmed case was in early May in a single backyard flock of mixed poultry in northern Indiana's Whitley County.
Bill Wulff, treasurer of the Indiana Poultry Breeders Association, said the board's tentative move to end the poultry show ban on Sept. 17 is great news for breeding groups in Bloomington, Connersville, Lebanon and Spencer that hold poultry exhibitions in the fall and winter.
"We are elated to get our state opened back up. There's a lot of revenue that comes into those communities through those shows, from the hotel rooms, the food and gas," he said.
Indiana imposed its statewide bird show ban May 27 to protect both backyard poultry flocks and the state's large commercial poultry industry. Indiana ranks first in the nation in duck production and is among the top five states in egg and turkey production, according to the Indiana State Poultry Association.