False EIA-Positive Mustang Foals Go Up For Adoption

Twelve Mustang foals will be among horses offered for adoption at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) adoption in Stillwater, Okla., April 10. Ten gentled and halter-trained geldings, 12 untrained mares, and four gentled jack burros will also be available.

The foals are a special group because of their health history. These twelve are now certified free of a deadly disease—equine infectious anemia (EIA)—when eight months ago, they tested positive for EIA. In the spring of 1998, the presence of EIA was discovered in a northeast Utah wild horse herd. Nearly 50 horses tested positive for the disease, including these foals' mothers. The diseased adults were destroyed and the 12 foals were kept alive to determine if they had EIA. EIA, which is transmitted by blood-sucking flying insects, is detected by examining a horse's blood for antibodies. Because antibodies can sometimes be passed to offspring through a mare's milk without transmitting the disease itself, the BLM was not sure if the foals actually had the disease. Subsequently, the BLM worked with wild horse and burro advocacy groups, humane societies and EIA experts to find a solution.

"This is an example of interest groups and the scientific community working cooperatively with the BLM to find a compassionate solution," said Henri Bisson, BLM Assistant Director. "In facing this challenge, we used a good science to put the best interest of the horses first."

The BLM explored the possibility of placing the foals in a research program to contribute to the long-term understanding of EIA and improve efforts to fight this highly infectious and incurable disease in a scientifically sound manner. In several studies, up to 90 percent of foals that initially test positive for EIA are later found not to carry the disease. It can take 6-8 months for the passive maternal immunity to decay. Only at this time is the true status of the foal known.

In July 1998, the BLM placed the 12 foals into quarantine in a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved EIA-biocontainment building on the Oklahoma State University's (OSU) College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) campus in Stillwater. Researchers at OCU-CVM collaborated with the University of Kentucky and the BLM to conduct the 8-month study. Since their arrival at OSU, bi-weekly blood tests of the foals have shown a gradual decrease in their antibodies until March 1999 when all 12 ultimately tested negative for the disease.

The adoption will take place at the OSU Equine Sports Medicine Arena. Animals will be available for preview on Friday, April 9, from 1-5 p.m. and on Saturday, April 10, from 8-10 a.m. The silent bid adoption will begin at 10 a.m., Saturday, April 10. Applications may be obtained by contacting the BLM office in Moore, Okla., at 800/237-3642, or locally at Stillwater Milling Company/Agri Center in Stillwater or the Country General Stores in Ponca City and Yukon, Okla. Prospective adopters should obtain the signature of their own veterinarian on the veterinarian certification form, included in the application packet, to certify that the applicant's facility meets the BLM's minimum requirements.

The 12 foals have been in a protected area for several months; therefore the BLM has added a restriction to the approval process to ensure the foals' health is not jeopardized when transported to their new home. The applicant's facility must be located within a 6 hour driving radius (approximately 300 miles) of Stillwater.

For more information about the Stillwater adoption, call 800/237-3642, or refer to the following Internet address: www.adoptahorse.blm.gov where you can also view pictures of the animals.

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