PORTLAND, Ore.— Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill into law today to help Oregon prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases linked to the import, trade and handling of wildlife. H.B. 4128 passed with bipartisan support in the Oregon legislature.
“It’s so exciting to see Oregon leading efforts to prevent future public health crises by tackling wildlife exploitation head on,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife trade and trafficking are fueling the rise in diseases that spread from animals to people, and they’re key drivers of the extinction crisis.”
H.B. 4128 will help prevent zoonotic transmission of disease by prohibiting import of wildlife identified as posing a risk to human health. This will help avert future public health outbreaks and economic disruptions by reducing avenues for zoonotic disease transmission associated with the import, trade and handling of wildlife. It will also strengthen state agency coordination and improve prevention, monitoring and response plans.
Many of the worst epidemics and pandemics in recent decades, including COVID-19, the Ebola virus, avian influenza and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, likely spread from animals to humans, which is why they are referred to as zoonotic diseases.
Zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 are on the rise because of habitat loss, climate change and wildlife exploitation — including trade and trafficking. All of these factors bring humans closer to wildlife and create optimal conditions for disease to spread.
Novel zoonotic pathogens pose serious threats to public health, biological diversity and economic stability. The costs of wildlife diseases to public health are enormous and tend to fall disproportionately on BIPOC communities because of poor health care access and structural discrimination.
The United States is one of the world’s top importers of wildlife, consuming an estimated 20% of the global wildlife market. Each year the United States imports around 225 million live animals and 883 million specimens. Live animal markets bring together wildlife, domestic animals and humans that wouldn’t otherwise come into contact, which allows disease to spread between species and spill over to humans.
H.B. 4128 has four key provisions. First, the Legislative Policy and Research Office, in consultation with the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Agriculture, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, is required to prepare a report that evaluates Oregon’s current framework for monitoring, preventing and responding to zoonotic diseases and recommends ways to strengthen the framework.
Second, the Department of Fish and Wildlife will have to review and update the list of prohibited species as the commission deems necessary to protect against significant risks to public health from zoonotic disease. The agency will also update the list of prohibited species upon notification from state health officials that a wildlife species poses a significant risk to public health from zoonotic disease.
Third, wildlife may not be held and sold live for the purpose of human consumption except for those animals utilized for farm use under state law.
Finally, the Department of Fish and Wildlife is directed to consider public health and the risk of zoonotic disease when adopting rules related to the holding and capture of wildlife.