USDA’s New Animal Disease Tracebility Program: What does it mean for horse owners?

It means a brand new pain in the butt, reports Maegan Gossett of the new paperwork requirement for interstate travel, effective March 11.

From Maegan:

Owning a horse is no slouch’s job. There is a lot to keep up with. It pains me to say it, but my mom normally has to remind me when it is time to renew my horse’s coggins. Don’t even get me started on worming or vaccines. It turns into oh crap, what calendar did I write that down on, did I write it down, nevermind I can remember magical number game. There are some people that are fastidious about this, and I sincerely wish I were one of you. Either way–organized or not–it seems that we have one more thing to keep up with.

I can tell you’re excited.

On December 20th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a final rule that would regulate and improve upon previous efforts to trace livestock–including horses–moving interstate. This applies to all of us taking our horses out of state for breeding, racing, showing, recreation, etc. The program is called Animal Disease Traceability Program (ADTP) and was created with the purpose of improving the ability to deal with disease outbreaks and minimize outbreak effects.

The new rules – effective March 11, 2013 – state that all horses moving interstate must be identified prior to movement and accompanied by an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI). Just like coggins or health certificates, we are now responsible for getting another piece of paper before we take our horses anywhere. And I do mean anywhere–all states now require an ICVI to accompany any horse entering the state.

The American Horse Council provided the following list on how horses can be officially identified in order to obtain an ICVI:

  • A description sufficient to identify the individual horse including, but not limited to, name, age, breed, color, gender, distinctive markings, and unique and permanent forms of identification, such as brands, tattoos, scars, cowlicks, blemishes, or biometric measurements).  In the event that the identity of the horse is in question at the receiving destination, the state animal health official in the state of destination or APHIS representative may determine if the description provided is sufficient; or
  • Electronic identification (Animal Identification Number) that complies with ISO 11784/11785; or
  • Non-ISO electronic identification injected into the horse on or before March 11, 2014; or
  • Digital photographs sufficient to identify the individual horse; or
  • A USDA backtag for horses being transported to slaughter as required by the Commercial Transport of Horses to Slaughter regulations.

Note: Animal Identification Numbers and microchips are an option, but not a requirement for horses.

In the event of an outbreak, an ICVI will be used to trace horses currently in or previously have been in the area of an outbreak and identity other horses that came into contact with the contaminated horses.

Clearly no one can argue with that. When we travel anywhere, the safety of our horses is paramount. However, and this is just my opinion, but couldn’t the USDA just use a horse’s coggins and make them state record? The only difference between an ICVI, a health certificate, and a coggins is that an ICVI will be data used by the state.

Currently, states are responsible for collection, retention, and retrieval of information on livestock movement. Upon issuing an ICVI, the vet, APHIS representative, or state representative must forward the document to the origin state’s health official within seven days. The origin state then forwards the document to the state of destination within seven days of receiving it from the issuer.

To me that sounds like a lot of ways for something to get lost. This program has great intentions, but I just wonder about the execution. This is going to be a big pain for all of us, not just horse owners. Although it sure seems a lot easier to stick a tag in a cow’s ear and call it day. We have to report socks, blazes, dark bays–no, not black, dark bay. Having our horses identified every time we travel is going to be a huge pain and expense. I just hope I feel more protected when I shell out that farm call expense to a vet twice or three times a month.

The USDA says, “Animal disease traceability, or knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they’ve been, and when, is very important to ensure a rapid response when animal disease events take place. An efficient and accurate animal disease traceability system helps reduce the number of animals involved in an investigation, reduces the time needed to respond, and decreases the cost to producers and the government.”

I’m really glad it’s cheap for the government.

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