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August 22, 2004

Gov. Blagojevich signs bill to improve state agriculture department’s disease-fighting capability
New law enables Dept. of Agriculture to regulate animal swap meets

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod Blagojevich today signed a law, initiated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which will improve the state’s ability to contain and eliminate animal diseases.  Senate Bill 3111 amends the Illinois Diseased Animals Act and requires organizers of a swap meet where exotic animals are traded to notify the department at least 30 days before the meet is held and to keep records of transactions at the meet for at least a year. 
“Swap meets have become especially problematic for state animal health investigators because of the growing popularity of exotic animals,” Gov. Blagojevich said.  “Right now, locating the owners of these animals to warn them they may be in danger because their pet has been exposed to a disease is almost impossible. Currently, few, if any, records are kept when the animals are bought and sold.” 
The need to regulate swap meets became apparent in June of 2003 when monkeypox, a rare and potentially deadly virus never before diagnosed in the United States, sickened nine Illinoisans.  Infected prairie dogs were determined to be spreading the virus, but some of the animals potentially carrying the disease could not be found because the swap meets where they had been sold kept inadequate records. 
The paper trail also ended at a swap meet in at least one instance last May while animal health officials were attempting to collect giant African snails, an illegal exotic pest capable of causing widespread environmental damage as well as transmitting disease to humans.  No illnesses were attributed to the snails, but officials say the incident served as confirmation that a rewrite of the state Diseased Animals Act was needed to address the unregulated exotic animal trade.
Senate Bill 3111 was sponsored by Sen. Larry Walsh (D-Elwood) and Rep. Dan Reitz (D-Steeleville).  It’s effective immediately.
“I commend the governor and legislature for recognizing the importance of this legislation,” Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said.  “It will significantly improve our ability to locate infected animals and contain disease outbreaks that also may pose a human health risk.”  
Violations of the Illinois Diseased Animals Act are business offenses, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.


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