Practical Applications for Animal ID

"The most important factor in the equine ID controversy is in the interpretation of what is on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) web page," said Carl C Heckendorf, DVM, of the Colorado Department of Agriculture. "Horse owners read the word 'bovine' and exchange it to 'horse.' Perhaps the most visceral objections are about new electronic animal health processes and computer-speak in general."

Heckendorf gained first-hand evidence of the practical applications related to equine ID and animal movement during the National Jr. High School Rodeo Finals held in Gallup, N.M., in July. Participating states include Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Mississippi. Colorado requires an Equine Passport as well as requiring participants to implant their horses with specific radio frequency identification (RFID) chips from one of three manufacturers.

When injecting the horses with the microchip, Heckendorf found that 72% of horses had little to no objection, 17.6 % objected slightly, 5.8% jumped away, 4% required two injections, and none required a twitch.

Seventy-five percent of all participants obtained NAIS premises numbers, and 100% of the Colorado and Mississippi participants received their premises numbers.

"Three different readers were used (at the rodeo)," said Heckendorf. "Only once was there a reader that didn't read a chip, and that may have been operator error. Bluetooth technology was 67% effective, and it was 100% effective when operated by knowledgeable users as familiarization with equipment in general made the process easier."

Another goal was to see if movement of the horses could be followed. Heckendorf reported that was accomplished electronically to the state of origin and destination within 48 hours.

Heckendorf said equine viral arteritis (EVA) is a disease that is a prime example of how the NAIS system will help horse owners.

"EVA exemplifies the need for equine identification and trace back capabilities," said Heckendorf. "We need more than ID numbers and Premises Numbers for quick and easy traceback. USDA's eCVI (electronic Certificate of Veterinary Inspection) would provide the database and information that would facilitate this action. This is not an invasion of privacy, it is simply protecting the equine industry."

In a survey presented to participants at the conclusion of the rodeo, 85% "agreed to strongly agreed" with animal ID. Fifteen percent were neutral, 98% felt the project was worthwhile, and 100% indicated they were in favor of national acceptance of the equine passport program.

For more information on the Colorado equine program, contact Carl C. Heckendorf, DVM, at 303/239-4109

About the Author

J. Amelita Facchiano

J. Amelita Facchiano has a passion for equine health, welfare, and identification. She chairs the U.S. Animal Health Association Animal Welfare Committee, and she serves on infectious diseases and ID committees for USAHA, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and National Institute of Animal Agriculture. In addition, Facchiano chairs the Equine Species Working Group ID committee. She also wrote Horse Theft Prevention Handbook, available at

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