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The Humane Society of the United States Issues Statement on Deadly Disease Discovered in Pennsylvania Deer

The Humane Society of the United States issued a statement in response to Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s report that a captive white-tailed deer has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease – a fatal, incurable disease that affects deer, elk and other cervids. This is the first time the disease has been reported in Pennsylvania.

“The first confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease in Pennsylvania is a sad example of the threat that captive hunts – and the facilities that supply them with animals – pose to native wildlife. The unnaturally high densities that characterize these pay-to-play shooting operations greatly increase the risk for disease transmission,” said Samantha Hagio, policy manager of the wildlife protection campaign for The HSUS. “An outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease puts wild deer populations in jeopardy and could cost taxpayers millions of dollars. The most humane and fiscally responsible thing to do is to tackle this issue and shut down the captive hunts.”


  • Chronic Wasting Disease has now been found in 22 states. In 13 of the states the disease has been found in captive populations.

  • Animals in captive hunts are stocked inside fenced enclosures, allowing ranches to often offer guaranteed trophies, “100 percent success” rates and advertise “no kill, no pay” policies.

  • Captive hunts are generally reviled by the hunting community nationwide for violating the principle of fair chase. Hunting groups such as the Boone and Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club, which maintain trophy records for big game hunting, will not consider animals shot at captive hunts for inclusion on their record lists.

  • At more than 1,000 commercial captive hunt operations in the United States, trophy hunters pay to shoot native and exotic mammals — from zebra to endangered scimitar-horned Oryx — confined in fenced enclosures.

  • Many of the animals on these ranches have become accustomed to humans, making them easy targets for shooters.

  • Chronic Wasting Disease can cost taxpayers millions of dollars in response efforts – the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources alone has spent more than $35 million since 2002 fighting the disease. 

Media Contact: Kaitlin Sanderson, 301-721-6463; ksanderson@humanesociety.org

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