USDA: Horses from CEM Countries Could be Allowed as Temporary Imports

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has proposed to amend its regulations so that horses to be used for noncompetitive entertainment from countries affected with contagious equine metritis (CEM) can be temporarily imported into the United States under certain conditions.

The regulations currently provide for the temporary importation of horses from countries affected with CEM to compete in specified events. The proposed changes would allow horses to be temporarily imported, in some cases for more than 90 days, solely for public exhibition and entertainment purposes while continuing to protect against the introduction of CEM in the United States.

A risk assessment conducted by APHIS concluded that with the application of restrictions described in the proposed rule, the risk posed by allowing the extended importation of noncompetitive entertainment horses from CEM-affected countries is extremely low.

APHIS is proposing two primary safeguards to prevent the transmission of CEM while the horses are in the United States. First, an APHIS specialist would monitor the horses whenever they are not in transit and second, APHIS would require stringent measures to ensure that the horses are kept apart from other horses, except when performing, being exhibited, or exercising.

Because CEM is a venereal disease, transmitted only through sexual contact, there is virtually no risk that a horse will transmit the disease through casual contact with other horses during a performance or exercise. APHIS also would require submission of additional information, such as detailed identifying information, for all related import permits.

Although CEM does not cause mortality, it can be a costly disease to control. The direct consequences can include the closing of breeding operations and production losses.

A CEM outbreak would result in the quarantine of affected horse farms, temporary cessation of breeding operations, and restrictions on both intrastate and interstate movement.

Notice of this proposed rule was published in the Aug. 2 Federal Register.

The USDA will consider comments on this proposed change.

Comments must be received on or before Oct. 1. Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to: Docket No. APHIS-2006-0164, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238.

Comments can also be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking portal at Select "Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service" from the agency drop-down menu; then click on "Submit." In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0164 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials, which are available electronically.

Comments are posted on the Web site and can also be reviewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call 202/690-2817.

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