Switzerland Ramps Up Horse Traceability Laws

Switzerland Ramps Up Horse Traceability Laws

Every time a horse in Switzerland moves to a different stable or changes owners, an official notification must be made to the Animal Tracing Database (BDTA).

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

While all European Union member nations require that horse owners or caretakers have their animals officially identified by electronic microchip, Switzerland has gone a step further. In order to better manage disease outbreaks, Swiss owners must now register horses and report movement and other significant status changes to federal officials.

This means that every time a horse moves to a different stable or changes owners, an official notification must be made to the Animal Tracing Database (BDTA).

Short-term movements (lasting less than 30 days) do not need to be reported, said Colette Schmid, project leader in the Division of Animal Production and Breeding in the Federal Office of Agriculture. But owners must notify officials when their horses are imported or exported, castrated, and when the horse dies or is euthanized.

Equally importantly, owners must inform the BDTA when they change the horse's official "use status." In Switzerland, all horses are born with the "livestock" use status—meaning their meat can be supplied to the food chain. Owners can choose to officially change the horse's status to “pet,” however this decision is irreversible and can have significant consequences, the BDTA website states.

“Livestock” horses must have thorough veterinary paperwork listing all treatments they receive, and medication choices for these animals are limited. However, “pet” horses have less stringent veterinary paperwork requirements and more possibilities for medications. As a result, “pet” horses cannot be sent to slaughter.

The BDTA was created in December 1999 with the purposes of tracing the movement of livestock, primarily cattle, following the outbreak of mad cow disease. In 2011, the Swiss government decided to expand the tracking to horses, as well. Today, all horses born in or imported into Switzerland as of Jan. 1, 2011, must be identified by electronic microchip and registered with the BDTA.

Electronic microchipping is a European requirement ensuring identification of horses, but the tracking of equine movement is a distinct, though complementary, effort, Schmid told The Horse. “Switzerland does indeed go one step further by requiring the notification of movements to the BDTA,” she said. “The goal of this program is to ensure the traceability of equids, considering the importance of that with regard to disease outbreak management and to food safety.”

Swiss owners have just over a month—until Nov. 30—to declare their yet-unregistered horses online before late fees apply.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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