USDA Declares Qatar Free Of African Horse Sickness

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is issuing a final rule declaring Qatar, a small country on the Persian Gulf, free of African horse sickness (AHS). This change in disease status relieves import restrictions on horses from Qatar.

"This action makes the importation of horses from Qatar less expensive and more practical, without endangering the health of our own horse population," said Alfonso Torres, deputy administrator for veterinary services with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a part of USDA's marketing and regulatory programs mission area. "Qatar has not recorded a case of African horse sickness in over 30 years."

Current APHIS regulations require that horses being imported from regions considered to be affected with African horse sickness, a fatal equine viral disease, enter the United States only at the port of New York. Once they arrive, horses are quarantined at the New York Animal Import Center in Newburgh, N.Y., for at least 60 days.

This final rule allows horses from Qatar to be shipped to and quarantined at ports other than New York. It also reduces the quarantine and testing period to an average of three days to meet APHIS quarantine and testing requirements.

This action is based on information received from Qatar's animal health authorities. It is in accordance with standards set by the Office International de Epizooties for recognizing a country as free of African horse sickness.

Notice of this final rule is scheduled for publication in the Jan. 5 Federal Register and becomes effective Jan. 20.

Comments may be reviewed at USDA, Room 1141 South Building, 14th Street and Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. Persons wishing access to this room are requested to call ahead at 202/690-2817 to facilitate entry into the comment reading room.

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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