Change to Texas EIA Regulations

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) recently enacted a new regulation that requires equids to have had a negative blood test for equine infectious anemia (EIA) within the previous 12 months if the animals are kept within 200 yards of equids owned by another individual. The change was in response to citizen petitions.

Linda Logan, DVM, Texas' state veterinarian and TAHC executive director, said, "Concerned owners approached the TAHC commissioners several months ago with a petition asking for this new regulation. Because many horse owners in Texas have small plots of land, they wanted to be assured that their animals would not be near potentially infected equids."

Current Texas law requires equids to be test-negative for EIA within the previous 12 months if they are transported to places where horses gather, such as fairs, horse shows, exhibitions, rodeos, or trail rides. The 12-month rule also applies to horses which are being sold or entering the state.

Equine infectious anemia is a viral disease that attacks the horse's immune system. The Coggins test is the most commonly used means of detecting EIA. The virus is transmitted by the exchange of body fluids from an infected to a non-infected animal, often by biting flies. Once an animal is infected with EIA, it is infected for life and can be a reservoir for the spread of disease. Texas horses which test positive for EIA are permanently identified with a “74A” brand on their left shoulder. These horses must be euthanized, sold to slaughter, donated to an approved research facility, or remain quarantined for life at least 200 yards from other horses.

Carla Everett, TAHC information officer, said that some owners who don’t typically test their horses have expressed concern about the requirement, so she gave an example of the type of horse-keeping situation not affected by the regulation.

“If you’re more than 200 yards from another farm and you have an old horse that never leaves the property, you don’t have to have him tested,” she said. “Just the animals that you take to events and trail ride—events where you’re going to be around other horses. We want to make sure that we don’t have an infected horse mingling with other animals.”

Horse owners can call the TAHC headquarters or area office (there are eight of these offices spread across the state) to request assistance with enforcing this regulation. A TAHC representative will first verify that the horses owned by the caller have current negative Coggins tests. Then, TAHC will examine neighboring premises to gain compliance with the testing requirements. If the horses have not been tested, representatives can put a hold on the horses so that they aren’t moved from the farm unless it is to be tested for EIA.

Logan reported that the TAHC has worked for years to control EIA and there has been a dramatic decline in the viral infection since 1997, when more than 730 equids tested positive in the state. Of 250,000 Texas equids tested in 2001, only 124 were infected. Logan credits the drop to owner concern, more stringent testing requirements, and growing EIA awareness.


About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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