Australia Lifts European Ban, Restricts Import

Biosecurity Australia announced yesterday (May 17) that the March 14 ban on horses from foot and mouth disease (FMD)-affected countries has been lifted. Strict quarantine and disinfection measures have been enacted to maintain Australia’s FMD-free status.

”In light of community and industry concern over the importation of horses, a thorough examination of the risks has been undertaken in consultation with the Australian horse industry, veterinary authorities, and other stakeholders,” said officials in a statement from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry and Australia Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS). “Imports can safely be allowed under a series of stringent conditions that will maintain Australia’s disease freedom.”

The arrangements, which took effect immediately, allow importation of horses from the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union, providing that:

1. The horses spend the mandatory three-week pre-export quarantine (PEQ) period at an approved quarantine facility in a country that does not currently have a significant FMD outbreak (this means that horses from England, Scotland, and Wales will need to undergo PEQ in another country since they have current major outbreaks).

2. No FMD-susceptible species have been permitted in the quarantine premises for 28 days before the quarantine period begins.

3. The PEQ premises must be at least 10 km. from an FMD-infected property. (This distance is a minimum and indicative only. It may be changed if circumstances require).

4. At the importer’s expense, an Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) veterinarian has inspected, approved, and audited the PEQ facility and has supervised the disinfection of horses, equipment, and transport.

5. The horses are transported to and from the quarantine premises in vehicles that have been cleaned and disinfected to the satisfaction of the AQIS veterinarian.

6. The horses—including their coats and hooves—and associated equipment are cleaned and disinfected to the satisfaction of the AQIS veterinarian.

7. Any personnel accompanying the horses may bring only clean, laundered clothing with them to Australia, with their footwear to be inspected, cleaned, and disinfected when the horses arrive for the mandatory two-week post-entry quarantine at a government quarantine station; and

8. All horses and equipment are cleaned and disinfected on arrival, and personnel accompanying horses do not wear any work clothing or shoes when leaving the quarantine station.

The conditions will be reviewed and modified as necessary to reflect changes in international FMD-circumstances.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) described the announcement of the import measures as “meaningless and unworkable” on May 18. Since horses cannot carry the virus in a medical sense, the group feels that the measures are too strict, and will inhibit both the arrival of European horses to participate in the Melbourne Cup (Nov. 6) and the ability of local breeders to book overseas sires for the upcoming breeding season.

“No overseas trainer is going to permit his valuable stock to be penned in a third country for three weeks when they need to be in active training,” said Dr. Ian Denney, president of the AVA. “The three weeks requirement is also a huge burden on the Thoroughbred breeding industry,” he added. The AVA will continue seeking to end the ban.

“The new arrangements are consistent with the strict quarantine protocols that have kept Australia free from FMD for almost 130 years,” said the AFFA, “and meet or exceed all scientifically-based concerns over the potential transport of the FMD virus.”

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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