Alternatives for Selling Untested Equids

In fall l999, House Bill 1732 of the 76th Texas Legislature went into effect, requiring equids, including horses, donkeys, mules, and asses to be tested for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) within 12 months prior to undergoing a change of ownership, whether through trade, gift or sale by private treaty or at a market. The 12 commissioners of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the state's livestock health regulatory agency, adopted regulations to comply with the law.

The only exceptions to the EIA testing requirement are nursing foals, regardless of age, if they are transferred with their test-negative dam and Texas zebras changing hands. All other untested equids are restricted for sale to slaughter only, where blood will be collected for testing at state expense.

Regulations and law for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) were developed to protect equids from exposure to this incurable virus that can be harbored by infected, but healthy-looking equids. The virus is spread through blood-to-blood contact between infected and "clean" equine, which can occur when biting flies move from one animal to another, or when contaminated medical instruments are used. Although some infected equine may look healthy, others stricken by the virus can develop acute symptoms and become extremely ill, or die.

In calendar year l999, nearly 200,000 Texas equids were tested for the disease, whether for interstate movement, for shows, fairs, sale, etc., and 154 were found to be infected with the virus. In l998, 230 of the 180,000 tested were positive for the disease, while in l997,579 were found to be infected.

Recently, several horse owners complained to the TAHC about untested equids being restricted for sale to slaughter only at auction markets. The complaints (in bold) and the TAHC's responses follow:

Some sellers arrive at a horse sale without knowing about the testing law and TAHC regulations.

Articles and pamphlets have been distributed widely by the TAHC to inform horse owners. If, however, a seller arrives at the market without being aware of the requirements, the TAHC inspector on duty will be glad to provide information on the law and regulations.

If untested equids get to the market, the animal has to go to slaughter, right?

No. The seller has several options.

1. The equid can be returned home; tested for EIA by an accredited veterinary practitioner, then sold within a few days if the test is clean."

2. Some markets have a practitioner on site to draw the necessary blood sample, as well as a closely situated EIA laboratory, where the one-hour version of the EIA test may be run.

3. The seller can always opt for the slaughter alternative for reasons known only to them. The choice—and responsibility for having the animal tested—is in the seller's hands. If the seller elects not to have the EIA test run on the animal being sold, then, by law and the resulting TAHC regulations, the equid will be restricted to sale for slaughter only.

So what can be done?

Sellers can be encouraged to have the EIA test run before they haul an equid to market, so the test-negative animal can be sold without restriction. In most cases, the selling price will be higher for tested equids. Ask the market owner to consider arranging for a closely situated "off-site" laboratory and a veterinarian, so that equid can be tested before the sale.

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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