Legislation Introduced for Expediting Horse ID Plan Use

Four bills that would accelerate implementation of a national animal identification system have been introduced in Congress--two in the Senate and two in the House of Representatives. Horses are not specifically mentioned in any of these bills, but will be included in a national animal ID program at some point in the future. According to an official in one bill sponsor's office, specifics of enactment--including, presumably, how horses would be affected by accelerated implementation--would be up to the Agriculture Secretary's discretion if legislation passes. The USDA has declined to comment on the proposed bills.

The two Senate bills, S2008 and S2070, were introduced Jan. 20 and Feb. 12, respectively. House bills HR3787 and HR3822 were introduced Feb. 10 and Feb. 24, respectively. All four are now in committee. You can view bill summaries and statuses at http://thomas.loc.gov.

The legislation calls for amending the Animal Health Protection Act for implementation of an electronic nationwide livestock identification system (each bill worded differently) and would give the USDA, depending on the bill, $50 or 175 million for quick implementation. Three of the bills would require USDA to begin the program 90 days after enactment, and one bill includes a plan requiring implementation in certain livestock within 60, 90, and 190 days after enactment, but implemented in all livestock within a year (although horses are not specifically mentioned).

HR 2787 and S2070 also address maintaining livestock producers' confidentiality in the face of the identification program.

The need for an electronic national animal identification system was heightened upon the discovery of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) earlier this year in Washington state. The ability to trace back animal movement when disease is discovered is extremely important—catching a disease at its source can prevent culling of mass numbers of animals because of possible exposure.

A task force from the equine industry has been working to develop equine ID standards that would be minimally intrusive to horse owners, but would comply with a national ID plan (see The United States Animal ID Plan).

While many of the diseases that affect food animals do not affect horses, a livestock disease such as foot and mouth disease (FMD) could bring the horse industry to a screeching halt (case in point: The United Kingdom's FMD battle). Horses can "mechanically" carry some diseases on their hair, skin, hooves, and equipment if they are exposed to affected livestock, and tires and vehicles that have driven past or through an affected farm also can transmit disease, so all livestock movement could be banned should a livestock disease hit the United States. The national ID program is designed to avoid such a situation with immediate traceback capability.

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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