Horse Smart Card in the Works in Colorado

The horse industry in Colorado is instituting an Equine Smart Card identification program that will meet National Animal Identification System (NAIS) standards. The NAIS is being developed by the USDA and state agencies, and it is intended to identify specific U.S. animals, record their movements over their lifespans, and enable 48-hour traceback of the movements of any diseased or exposed animal. Carl Heckendorf, DVM, director of livestock disease and animal health for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, explained the Smart Card program at the National Institute of Animal Agriculture's annual meeting April 3-7 in St. Paul, Minn.

"Colorado is a brand state; many of the horses already have brand cards," began Heckendorf. "But a brand shows ownership, while a microchip will show identification." A brand is also unique to a premises, not a horse, and in the event of a disease outbreak, it is difficult to track a single horse based on a brand that could be on many horses scattered throughout the state and country.

The card will include health and brand data. Also incorporated will be radio frequency identification technology (RFID) methods and possible use of biometrics (digital iris scans) and DNA identification.

"The card will be read when there is a change of ownership, interstate movement, and movement within the state over 75 miles," said Heckendorf. These situations already require brand inspections. "When the horse is chipped, that horse will be tied to a premises, and that premises will have GPS (global positioning satellite) coordinates. The coordinates will be noted each time the card is read at a readable premises (such as a horse show) to aid in tracking."

The price of the card and who will pick up the cost of it have not been decided. The purpose of this program is not profit--officials want to make the card as cost effective as possible to ensure people will use it.

The card will also help track movement of horses in and out of Mexico, helping to prevent disease outbreak and curb horse theft. Officials would like to coordinate the card with Canada and the rest of the country.

Finally, the card will be read with computers and wireless technology, with information stored in an Internet database. Vets, government inspectors, breed registries, and owners will have limited access to the database and will only be able to change data in certain categories to keep privacy and security at a maximum. Town hall meetings are being used to get feedback from horse owners about the Equine Smart Card project, and the project was to begin in earnest in May.

About the Author

Marcella M. Reca Zipp, MS

Marcella Reca Zipp, M.S., is a former staff writer for The Horse. She is completing her doctorate in Environmental Education and researching adolescent relationships with horses and nature. She lives with her family, senior horse, and flock of chickens on an island in the Chain O'Lakes.

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