ID Program Gets Funds, Suggestions

The push for the National Animal Identification Program has picked up momentum with formation of a consortium, the contribution of millions of dollars from the USDA, and recommendations from The Jockey Club on how equine identification should work.

Jockey Club executive director Dan Fick, during the Aug. 15 Round Table in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., said the equine industry should support the identification program to help control contagious diseases, ensure human health, counter bio-terrorism, and maintain freedom of transport. But there is more.

"Perhaps the most important reason to be a responsible member of the livestock industry is to ensure we receive the same benefits as do our friends in the cattle and other livestock businesses: favorable tax rates, emergency relief funds, and funding for equine research," Fick said.

The Jockey Club has recommended the horse industry control implementation and maintain oversight of any national identification system for horses. It proposes to incorporate existing identification programs and believes identification should begin with breed registration and veterinary inspections.

The horse industry consortium is called the Equine Species Working Group. William Hawks, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs for the USDA, said the federal government transferred $18.8 million from the Community Credit Corp. to jump-start the identification program. So far, $11.6 million has been given to 29 states and tribal entities for research.

"We are going to work collectively with all industries--whether it's the horse industry, the cattle, the swine, all of those—to make sure that whatever we do is cost-effective and is efficient," Hawks said during the Round Table presentation.
Hawks said the USDA is sensitive to the needs of the equine industry, in which horses frequently move from state to state or to foreign countries and back.

"Horses are more valuable, live longer, move more often, have greater potential for import and export, already have sophisticated identification systems, and are a major sports entertainment and gaming industry of significant economic impact and public interest," Fick said.

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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