Chapter 13 – Chronic Wasting Disease Voluntary Herd Certification Program
13.4 Program Procedures

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Preliminary Activities

1. Schedule a meeting with the local Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) district veterinarian to obtain the training necessary to establish a valid accreditation agreement (contract) with the CFIA. During this meeting, review the terms and conditions for herd certification, and discuss the duties and procedures that the accredited veterinarian must follow for the delivery of the Chronic Wasting Disease Voluntary Herd Certification Program (CWD VHCP).

2. Obtain and read the National Standards for the CWD VHCP (see Module 13.6, Appendix 3) and CFIA directive TAHD-DSAT-DCAW-2011-11, effective date: 2011-10-20 (see Module 13.6, Appendix 6), which outlines the current testing and reporting requirements and CFIA-approved laboratory information.

3. A tutorial or a review of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) brain and lymph node sampling techniques in cervids is suggested at this time. The CD Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies: Surveillance and Specimen Collection is a good resource available through the CFIA.

4. Once accredited for this function, make arrangements with an interested owner to assess the facilities, herd management, and record-keeping practices. These steps should be undertaken to gauge the degree to which the accredited veterinarian believes the producer can be successful, and to identify any necessary changes in record keeping or management that would facilitate meeting the CWD VHCP requirements.

Note: A third party initial herd inventory is to be prepared within the three months immediately prior to the submission of an enrolment application by the owner. (See section 16, below, and Module 13.3, section 6, for clarification on third parties.)

5. Advise owners to contact the regional administrator (RA) in their area (see Module 13.6, Appendix 4) to obtain an application form and to learn what is required to participate, to advance and to maintain certification.

Note: Certain regions in Canada may have a standard that is equivalent to or higher than what is set out in the national standards and this manual. Obtain a copy of the regional VHCP program from the RA, noting any differences in requirements over and above what is detailed in this manual.

Application

6. The herd owner contacts the RA and requests an application form.

7. An application is completed and submitted to the organization responsible for status assessment by the owner. The application form must be accompanied by the following:

  • the initial herd inventory prepared by the accredited veterinarian (or other approved third party) within the three-month period immediately prior to the submission of the application (see section 16 in this module and Module 13.3, section 6, for additional information);
  • a record-keeping plan (objective: records must be reviewed completely and effectively at each annual inspection); and
  • though it is not currently a national requirement, a site plan of all buildings and grazing premises to which the animals are given access. Regional or provincial programs that exceed the minimum national standards may have this requirement; thus, check with the RA.

8. The application must be signed by the accredited veterinarian and the owner. The initial inventory must be signed by the owner and the approved third party who conducts the inventory. (It is strongly recommended that the accredited veterinarian be the third party who conducts the initial inventory.)

Annual Anniversary Date and Anniversary Quarter

9. The status assessor (SA) will assign an annual anniversary date, based on the date the initial inventory was completed (or equivalent – check with SA).

10. The herd's category each year will be effective on the annual anniversary date.

11. Each annual inventory will be completed within the three months before or after the annual anniversary date.

12. The national standards refer to an anniversary quarter – that is, the three-month period following the anniversary date.

Inventories

13. Perform the initial animal inventory. All cervids 11 months or older on the premises must bear two forms of identification. All animals younger than 11 months must be officially identified (either with a provincial government-approved identifier or a CFIA Health of Animals Tag) when a change in ownership occurs or when animals are moved from their usual location (e.g. exhibition, insemination centre, sales barn, or auction barn).

14. Assess the animals for any clinical signs that can be associated with CWD.

15. The initial inventory must be completed within the three months immediately prior to the time the application is submitted. Each subsequent annual inventory must be completed and reported within three months of the initial inventory/anniversary date (i.e. no later than the end of the anniversary quarter).

16. The initial inventory, inventories at the end of the first (level E) and second (level D) years, and every third inventory after level C must be carried out by one of the approved third parties. Approved third parties include the accredited veterinarian, an animal health technician registered under the appropriate provincial licensing body and employed by the accredited veterinarian, or staff of a provincial department or agency that is the RA/SA. It is strongly recommended that the accredited veterinarian be the third party who conducts the initial inventory. CFIA staff can be an approved third party for conducting only the inventory, if it falls in a year when the herd undergoes CFIA tuberculosis and brucellosis testing which is currently every five years (see Module 13.3, section 6, for additional information).

17. In years when an approved third party is not required to carry out the inventory, the owner can conduct the inventory. At the time of inventory, the cervids are to be observed for clinical signs associated with CWD. If for any reason the cervids cannot be identified by using the dangle tag at a distance, they must be identified accurately using the official tag. The accredited veterinarian is still responsible for reconciling this inventory and examining the producer's records (making sure that the inventory and records provided by the owner contain all of the necessary information and account for any movement and deaths, as outlined in the owner's record-keeping requirements in section 35, below).

18. Instruct the owner to record all additions to the herd. Records are required for every cervid that is born on, or enters, the premises.

19. Inform the owner that acquisitions of live cervids or embryos must include documentation with proof that the cervid or embryo comes from one of the sources of equivalent or higher status listed in section 26, below. Any acquisitions of live cervids or embryos from herds of a lower status will result in the lowering of the certification level to that of the source of the cervids by the SA at the time of annual advancement.

20. Instruct the owner to maintain appropriate documentation of every cervid that leaves the herd (e.g. sales receipts, notation of deaths).

21. Inform the owner that records must be maintained for a period of five years after the animal has left the herd or died.

Physical Inventories/Inspection

22. Approved third parties conduct the physical inventories where the identification tags of all cervids on the premises must be read and recorded as outlined above in section 16.

23. The inventory will identify every cervid on the premises.

24. The initial inventory, and inventories at the end of the first and second years, as well as every third inventory after that, must be carried out by an approved third party as outlined in section 16, above.

25. Regardless of which approved party does the actual inventory in a given year, the accredited veterinarian is responsible for reconciliation of the inventory, identification and inventory of any remaining animals, and submission of the annual inventory report.

Acquisitions and Movement of Live Cervids and Genetic Material

26. Acquisitions of live cervids and embryos must come from herds of an equivalent or higher level.

Equivalent or higher status sources include the following:

  • Canadian herds enrolled at the same level of a herd certification program that has been assessed by the CFIA to meet the minimum national standards;
  • herds enrolled at an appropriate level of a herd certification program in another country or state of the U.S., which the CFIA has assessed as equivalent to the Canadian minimum national standards; and
  • herds in countries assessed and recognized by the CFIA as free from CWD.

27. Acquisitions of live cervids or embryos from herds of a lower status will result in the lowering of the certification level to that of the source of the cervids.

28. For the two first levels of the certification program, additions can only be made from a maximum of five herds per year. Herds that exceed this limit are considered assembled herds and must re-enroll as such.

29. According to the current standard, cervids may be sold at a live auction, provided the district veterinarian is satisfied that steps will be taken to prevent direct contact with cervids of a lesser certification status. (As of 2004, all cervids must be from level C or higher.) It is the owner's responsibility to inform the district veterinarian that this step must be initiated.

Note: Given current knowledge about indirect transmission, either direct sale or electronic auctions where no commingling occurs, with direct transport to the purchasing farm in an appropriately cleaned and disinfected vehicle, would be better for risk mitigation than a live auction.

30. Embryos collected within 18 months of the time the donor is diagnosed as positive for CWD shall not be used.

31. It is unknown whether semen can transmit CWD. At this time, semen may be brought into the herd, provided the requirements of the Health of Animals Regulations that govern semen collection are met.

Annual Inventory Report

32. The annual inventory report is the responsibility of the accredited veterinarian. The foundation of the annual inventory report is the reconciliation of this year's annual inventory with the previous year's annual inventory. The accredited veterinarian should receive a report produced by the RA, providing all the information from the previous annual inventory, at least one month prior to the start of the anniversary quarter.

The annual report lists the following:

  • all identification of each cervid on the premises at the time of the inventory;
  • all identification devices placed on each cervid, including the current calf crop and cervids that have lost identification devices;
  • all cervids that have entered or left the premises since the last inventory;
  • the status of the herd of origin for cervids entering the premises as live animals or implanted embryos;
  • all deaths or escapes;
  • the destination of every cervid that moved off the premises, established by a bill of sale or, if the animal has not been sold, a signed document showing the destination of the cervid; and
  • appropriate laboratory results for every cervid tested for CWD.

The report must account for every cervid over 12 months of age that has died, and must state that all the records that the owner is required to keep have been examined and found satisfactory.

When the accredited veterinarian is satisfied that the report adequately documents all of the above requirements, the report should include the accredited veterinarian's name and signature.

33. The report must be forwarded to the SA by the end of the anniversary quarter (i.e. no later than three months after the annual anniversary date).

34. Instruct the owner to submit an application to the RA to advance to the next level of the certification program or to maintain certified status once they have attained that level.

Note: The application for advancement may also accompany the submission of the annual report.

Record-Keeping Requirement

35. The owner must keep detailed herd records of every cervid that is born on, or enters, the premises, regardless of who the owner is or who is responsible for the cervid. The records must be kept for a period of five years after the animal has left the herd or has died. The records must be made available to the program delivery person or the CFIA inspector at any reasonable time and must be presented at the time of each annual inventory.

For any animal purchased or moved onto or from a premises identified on the application form, the following animal records must be kept:

  • the animal's official identification numbers and any other identification;
  • sex;
  • species and any identifying marks;
  • date of birth (day, if available, month, and year);
  • official identification number and any secondary ID of sire and dam if known;
  • official identification number and any secondary ID and sex of progeny if known;
  • if dead, the date and cause of death, post-mortem report, and laboratory report;
  • any movement permit required under section 76 of the Health of Animals Regulations;
  • if removed from the premises, the date of removal, the premises to which the animal was moved, and the name, address, and telephone number of the person to whom the animal was sold (owners are required to keep bills of sale); and
  • if an animal was brought into the herd:
    1. source premises and certification program level;
    2. name and address of the person from whom the animal was acquired; and
    3. the day, month, and year.

Deadstock Testing

36. The head of every cervid over 12 months of age that dies on the premises must be submitted for CWD testing to an accredited veterinarian or to a CFIA-approved laboratory. Exemptions are as outlined below under "Exemptions" and "Slaughter and Testing Clarification."

The specific testing requirements to advance, by year, are as follows:

  • During the first two years (i.e. between the initial and first annual herd inventories and the first and second inventories), 100% of the eligible cervids that die must be tested.
  • During all subsequent periods between inventories that follow, either of the following must be true:
    1. 100% of all eligible cervids that die must be tested; or
    2. 80% of cervids that die (other than by routine slaughter) must be tested and 10% of the total eligible cervids must be tested following death by routine slaughter.
  • "Tested" in this case means a CFIA-approved lab has certified that, of the samples tested, at least 75% (3 of 4) meet the current standard set out under section 56 below as "CWD not detected." The remaining 25% (1 of 4) must be at least "CWD not detected in secondary target tissue."

37. Deadstock testing is the most critical element of the program, and the absence of even one submission without documented cause will jeopardize the status of the herd within the program.

38. The nearest CFIA-approved laboratory for CWD surveillance testing should be identified by both the accredited veterinarian and the producer. (See Module 13.6, Appendix 1C.)

39. The producer may submit the whole head directly to the laboratory and must retain all identification devices in the ear(s). The accredited veterinarian should review how to sever the head (Module 13.6, Appendices 1A and 1B), and indicate how it should be prepared for shipping.

40. Removal of the brain or retropharyngeal lymph nodes (RPLNs), carried out by anyone other than an accredited veterinarian, provincial staff, or provincial laboratory (or a CFIA veterinarian/inspectorFootnote 2), will not be counted as submitted.

41. Cervids submitted to a CFIA-approved laboratory where brain tissue cannot be identified are not considered to have been tested.

42. Animals older than 12 months submitted for routine post-mortem examination may be considered as dead submissions if tested for CWD.

43. If the owner kills a mature cervid for humane purposes, testing is still required.

Exemptions

Legitimate exemption from submission of heads

The SA should consider the following as automatic exemptions from the requirement to submit, unless the SA suspects the conditions set out were not met or that the exemption is being abused to the detriment of the herd certification program.

A. The destruction of cervids by fire
A certificate or letter from an appropriate fire official must accompany the herd report (annual inventory report).

B. The destruction and carrying away the head of a cervid by a predator
A certificate or letter from an appropriate wildlife officer or other government official who is responsible for investigating such incidents must accompany the herd report (annual inventory report).

C. Theft
A report from the police officer who investigates the theft must accompany the herd report (annual inventory report).

D. The loss or destruction of the sample when it is no longer in the control of the owner (e.g. by an accredited veterinarian or laboratory)
CFIA-approved laboratories should note upon reception of the specimen that the obex is not present and the reason why.

A letter setting out the details of the loss of the sample by the responsible individual must accompany the herd report (annual inventory report).

E. Healthy Slaughter
Cervids slaughtered as part of a group of healthy animals in a provincial or federally inspected abattoir with a veterinarian present at the time of slaughter are currently exempt from the requirement to test (except as outlined above in section 36 b), and the supporting documentation outlined below in "Slaughter and Testing Clarification" is required.

Note: Cervids slaughtered on an emergency basis are not exempt, and thus require testing.

F. Any other reason or circumstance over which the owner could not reasonably be expected to have control, resulting in the destruction or disappearance of the body, such as a flood
A letter or report from an acceptable third party that sets out the details of the reason for failure to submit the sample must accompany the herd report.

44. If the laboratory receives unsuitable brain specimens, the laboratory will notify the SA and the accredited veterinarian responsible for the herd. A follow-up of the details of the individual situation will take place with the responsible accredited veterinarian/SA. If negligence on the part of the producer is identified as the cause, or this occurrence is repeated, the program's requirements will be considered unmet, and the status of the herd will be suspended.

Slaughter and Testing Clarification

45. Healthy cervids slaughtered as part of a group in a provincial or federally inspected abattoir with a veterinarian present are exempt from CWD VHCP testing (except as outlined at point 36b) above).

To prove that an animal was part of a healthy slaughter group for the testing exemption, the following documentation is required:

  1. a document from the veterinarian who was present when the cervid was slaughtered must accompany the herd report (annual inventory report)

    AND

  2. EITHER a) a document from the abattoir, stating that arrangements had been made to slaughter the cervid, which must be acquired at least two weeks before the actual slaughter date;

    OR

    b) a transportation permit given by the CFIA, listing the animals likely to be culled, which must be acquired at least two weeks before the actual slaughter date.

If these documents cannot be obtained, the owner should have the cervid tested.

46. Cervids slaughtered on an emergency basis must be tested for CWD, because they are considered high-risk animals (similar to on-farm deaths).

47. Carcasses or parts of cervid carcasses tested for CWD must be held, pending test results, and thus, arrangements must be made with the slaughterhouse before sending the animals. The owners should consult with those responsible for inspection of the meat while making arrangements.

Sample Submissions

48. The requirements and exemptions for testing are detailed above in "Deadstock Testing," "Exemptions," and "Slaughter and Testing Clarifications."

49. Both the obex and the RPLNs must be submitted for all farmed cervids tested for CWD.

  • The primary target tissue tested for all members of the family Cervidae (with the exception of members of the genus Odocoileus), such as elk, reindeer, sika deer, red deer, and fallow deer, is the obex of the medulla.
  • The primary target tissue tested for Odocoileus species (including white-tailed deer and mule deer) is the RPLNs.

The additional submitted tissues will be frozen and held by the laboratory until the initial test is completed.

50. The specimens must always be submitted to a CFIA-approved laboratory for the Bio-Rad enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test and must follow the methodology approved by the CFIA at the time of the test. All suspect test results will be confirmed by the CFIA national reference laboratory for CWD, with the CFIA responsible for reporting the results to the owner.

51. The producer may submit the whole head directly to the laboratory and it must retain all identification devices.

Required samples removed from the head by anyone other than an accredited veterinarian, appropriate provincial staff or provincial laboratory (or a CFIA veterinarian/inspectorFootnote 2) will not be considered as submitted.

52. The head or samples must be cooled immediately and, whenever possible, should be submitted fresh. When the cervid is not found immediately or the accredited veterinarian or recognized laboratory will be unavailable, the head should be frozen immediately and submitted as a frozen specimen. This will allow testing of cervids that might not be suitable otherwise.

53. Brains that are submitted to the approved laboratories in putrefied condition may be unacceptable for normal testing. If the carcass has deteriorated significantly, it may be impossible to find brain tissue, and thus no test will be possible.

54. When the head is presented to an accredited veterinarian and there is no brain present to forward for testing, the accredited veterinarian will provide the owner with a letter certifying that the head was "submitted" and no brain tissue was present to test.

55. The obex of the medulla is the portion of the brain required for testing. If necessary, owners should obtain specific instructions from their veterinarian or association on how to humanely shoot a cervid without destroying the obex.

If the brain is severely damaged, the laboratory or accredited veterinarian may be unable to find brain tissue to test. Cervids submitted to the CFIA-approved laboratory with brain tissue that cannot be identified are not considered to have been tested.

Reporting of Results

56. Further to CFIA directive TAHD-DSAT-DCAW-2011-11-01, effective date: 2011-10-20 (see Module 13.6, Appendix 6), the following are the accepted results of analysis on samples submitted for CWD via Bio-Rad ELISA testing:

Tested: CWD not detected
(The specimen submitted contained the correct target tissue for the species being tested.)

The sample should be reported as follows: "Bio-Rad ELISA was negative for disease-specific PrP (PrPCWD). Based on the tissue available for testing, this animal was unlikely to have died from CWD."

Tested: CWD not detected in secondary target tissue
(Where the specimen submitted did not contain the primary target tissue identified for the species being tested.)

The sample should be reported as follows: "Bio-Rad ELISA was negative for disease specific PrP (PrPCWD). Based on the tissue available for testing, this animal was unlikely to have died from CWD."

This may include the following:

  • samples from white-tailed and mule deer where the RPLN was not submitted but obex and/or brain is available for testing;
  • samples from elk where the obex was not submitted but the RPLN or other area of the brain is available for testing.

Submitted: Unsuitable for testing
(Where the specimen submitted did not have identifiable brain or RPLN tissue available for testing, and a report for analysis is completed.)

The sample should be reported as "Submitted: Unsuitable for testing." This should be followed with an explanation as to the cause for this result.

This may include the following:

  • samples where tissues other than brain/obex or RPLN are received;
  • samples where a skull/head is submitted, but no testable tissues are present.

57. Laboratory results are generally reported to the party that submits the sample, though this may vary by laboratory.

Advancement and Penalties

58. In addition to the criteria for advancement outlined in the "Deadstock Testing" section of this document, please refer to the section on "Advancement in Status Level," as outlined in section 17 of the national standards, for more information on what criteria the SA/RA may use for applying the penalties of lack of advancement or dropping one level in any given year.

Note: These administrative decisions may be set to an equivalent, or higher, level in various regional programs; check with the SA/RA in your area regarding penalties.

59. The minimum national standards for suspension and appeals are outlined in the national standards; check with the SA/RA for your regional program regarding the process for suspension and/or revocation or appeals.

Sick Animals

60. Instruct the owner of the herd to report to the accredited veterinarian any illness in a cervid 12 months of age or older, lasting longer than two weeks, except for a physical injury.

61. The accredited veterinarian will be responsible for monitoring the outcome of the case and for reporting the case to the CFIA if CWD is a differential diagnosis. Educate the owner to recognize the clinical signs of CWD, and provide information on the epidemiology of the disease.

Sanitary Precautions

62. Any cervid showing an illness of more than two weeks' duration must not be moved off the premises or have contact with any cervid with which it has not had previous contact, unless the accredited veterinarian approves the movement to treat the animal, and this movement will not expose any additional cervids.

63. If management practices include separating the year's calf crop from the yearlings or adults, no sick adult will be placed in the pens with the calves.

64. Every third party vehicle that transports cervids must be cleaned and disinfected before loading the cervids. (See Module 13.6 Appendix 2 for information on priocidal disinfectants.) The owner requires the transporter to provide a statement that the truck was cleaned and disinfected, and keeps a copy of the statement as supporting documentation for the RA/SA for the annual application for advancement.

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