Woman Fined for Forging Horse Health Documents

A Boscobel, Wisc., woman has been fined for selling horses without testing them for disease and forging documents claiming the tests had been done, the state veterinarian's office said.

In a plea bargain, Carol Swenson pleaded no contest to one charge of altering animal health records and one charge of selling an untested equine animal. She was ordered to pay Sauk County Circuit Court $574 by Feb. 15.

"There are a couple of take-home lessons here," said State Veterinarian Robert Ehlenfeldt, DVM. "First, livestock buyers really need to know who they're dealing with and make sure all the health papers are in order. Second, private practice veterinarians are one of our main lines of defense in enforcing animal health laws. In this case, we had both an alert buyer and a clinic that brought this forgery to our attention."

Horses that are sold, sent to Wisconsin fairs and shows, or imported into the state must be tested for equine infectious anemia, an incurable viral infection. The veterinarian who draws the blood sample for the EIA test and the laboratory technician who performs the test sign a report, which accompanies the horse.

According to the case file, Swenson sold three horses at a sale in LaValle in 2007. The buyer noticed that the report he received named a veterinary clinic but was not signed by a veterinarian, and contacted the clinic. A staff member from the clinic notified the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection that no one in the practice had tested these horses. Further investigation showed that no official test was on file with the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, either. At that point, the Department asked Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett to file criminal charges.

"Our animal health laws are in place to protect public health, animal health, and our livestock industry," Ehlenfeldt said. "Failing to do the tests is serious enough, and in this case threatens the entire horse industry in Wisconsin. Falsifying documents compounds the problem. If the horse had been infected, a less alert buyer might have ended up with a barn full of exposed horses under quarantine, with the expense of testing all of them to get the quarantine lifted."

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