WHEREAS the diagnostic laboratory in Fairview was the only one north of Edmonton and was quietly closed with high operating cost cited as the reasons; and WHEREAS there was a staff of eight, four of them diagnostic professionals headed by a ranking pathologist; and WHEREAS millions had been spent on constructing the laboratory, as well as $1.5 million on a large animal incinerator that was never totally completed; and WHEREAS now there is no laboratory and no large animal incinerator that is functioning, Fairview and area must dispose of their animals naturally and all animals that need pathological assessment must be submitted to Prairie Diagnostic Services in Saskatoon causing delays and extra expense in diagnostic assessments.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Government of Alberta, specifically Alberta Agriculture, to reactivate the Provincial Regional Veterinarian Diagnostic Laboratory to provide a much needed timely pathology service to farmers and vet clinics alike; and FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the incinerator for large animals be repaired and reactivated in order to provide safe and orderly disposal of these usually diseased animals.
The Provincial Regional Veterinarian Diagnostic Laboratory was constructed on the early 1970’s and operational until 1999. It had a staff of up to eight members, headed by a pathologist and other professional staff. Animal diagnostic services were provided to both the public and to veterinarians. This helped to maintain an excellent level of animal health in the area. Over the years the level of services was systematically downgraded and ceased totally in 1999. An important animal health surveillance tool had come to an end. There was now no pathology lab north of Edmonton. The large animal incinerator also became dormant because the original unit had fallen into disrepair, and although $1.5 million were spent on renovations and rebuilds, it was never brought up to “restart level.” Today the lab does limited work only with elk heads in the ongoing battle with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Also, a small portable incinerator is used to support the previously mentioned initiative. Vets do not access the facility. For diagnostic assessment everything must be sent out to the lab in Saskatoon, SK. This is a time consuming and expensive procedure. We believe that it is imperative that the provincial government seriously consider the reopening of a facility that is critical to the sustained animal health of the north.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions on this issue.
Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) withdrew from providing livestock diagnostic service to all livestock producers in the province in 1994, when private laboratories were established in the province to provide the service. Currently, diagnostic necropsies for livestock producers are performed by private veterinary clinics and samples for further testing are submitted to private diagnostic laboratories, such as Prairie Diagnostic Service out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
While the facility in Fairview is open four days of the week, the Food Safety and Animal Health Division (FSAHD) has a post-mortem room technician available three days of the week to meet the current demands of the laboratory. The facility is available for rent and use by private veterinarians on days when the post-mortem technician is on site. FSAHD has continued to provide diagnostic support to food animal veterinary practitioners in the region through its Disease Investigation Program for cases that meet the engagement criteria of the program.
ARD acknowledges that access to diagnostic services by food animal veterinarians for livestock producers is important to guard against animal losses due to disease and to avert potential threats to market access. ARD wants to make sure that livestock producers in Alberta have every advantage and opportunity to run a successful business and is therefore currently looking into the possibility of re-establishing a livestock diagnostic service in Alberta.
All four diagnostic laboratories in the province operated and maintained by FSAHD have incinerators that were and are designated for disposal of diagnostic samples and cadavers submitted to the laboratory and are not for general public use. FSAHD had ordered the installation of a new, large animal incinerator. However, due to escalating costs above the budgeted amount of installing the new incinerator, shrinking of the livestock industry, and reduced demand for use of the facility in the Peace region, the extra cost was not justified and so the purchase and installation was halted. There is a small incinerator that meets the needs of the current sample collection for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in farmed cervids that is performed at the facility.
The current recommendations are that the laboratory be maintained at current capacity, as it will allow the facility to:
Justification for continued operation of the Fairview Laboratory will be reviewed on a quarterly basis.
In responding to this resolution, Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) acknowledged that access to diagnostic services for livestock producers is important and is currently examining the possibility of re-establishing a livestock diagnostic service in the province. Speaking specifically to the request involving the diagnostic laboratory located in Fairview, ARD expressed that the facility will be maintained at its current capacity which does not include the incinerator for large animals being repaired and reactivated. As such, this resolution holds a status of Unsatisfactory and the AAMDC will monitor progress on the reestablishment of a provincial diagnostic service.