Proposal to Require Permit for Domestic Sheep in AK Delayed 2 Years
April 15, 2016

A controversial proposal to require owners of domestic sheep and goats in Alaska to permit their animals has been pushed back for two years.

Proposal 90, a proposal submitted to the Board of Game for its biennial statewide review of game management policies, would remove domestic sheep and goats from the "clean list" and require owners to obtain permits for each animal. It would also set more requirements for fencing and disease screening.

The proposal, submitted by the Alaska chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation, sought to protect wild sheep and goats from contracting diseases carried by their domestic counterparts. According to the WSF, transmission of diseases has caused crashes in wild sheep and goat populations in the Lower 48 in the past. Though there have been no outbreaks of pneumonia, the disease of the most concern, in Alaska's wild sheep and goat populations, it would be better to get out ahead of the problem before an outbreak occurs, according to the WSF proposal.

The Board of Game heard the proposal at its March 24 meeting in Fairbanks and, after many public comments and a short deliberation, decided to postpone any decision on it for two years so the interest groups could work out a solution between themselves.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game recommended the board take no action because the Board of Game does not have authority over domestic animals, only over wild game.

The game board was flooded with comments opposing Proposal 90, most from members of the agricultural community in the Mat-Su Valley and on the Kenai Peninsula. Most opposed the proposal because they felt it would infringe on the rights of animal owners and because Alaska relies so heavily on imported foods, so limiting any agricultural activity would only make the state more reliant on imports. Others opposed the proposition because they say the science behind the proposal is faulty.

The Wild Sheep Foundation submitted a position paper saying that multiple scientific papers have shown wild sheep to be susceptible to diseases carried by domestic sheep and goats, particularly an agent that causes pneumonia.

Several commenters took issue with that claim, saying the infectious agent is already present in the wild sheep, but the disease comes out when their immune systems are suppressed. There have been other studies that have shown contact alone is not enough for a wild sheep to become diseased, wrote Alaska Farm Bureau Executive Director Amy Seitz in a comment to the Board of Game.

Reprinted in part from Peninsula Clarion