Equine Influenza: Movement Ban Still In Place

New South Wales (NSW) police are warning horse owners that any breaches of the movement ban on horses "will not be tolerated and will be dealt with the full force of the law," noted a Sept. 7 government press release. There is no indication when the stop-movement order might be lifted.

Horses, ponies, and donkeys cannot be moved anywhere in New South Wales, and restrictions are in place for horse trailers and trucks, which can spread the disease via infected material.

Government officials said there have been more than 200 incidents of illegal horse or trailer movement reported or identified that are being investigated by police and the Department of Primary Industries. Police have the authority to stop and search motor vehicles containing horses, donkeys, and mules. Under these powers police can direct people to return to their property of origin and keep their animals there in compliance with control orders until movement restrictions are lifted.

 has reminded all horse owners that the ban on horse movements remains in force.

"There is absolutely no room for complacency," said NSW Department of Primary Industries Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Ian Roth. "The standstill is in place to help horse owners, by stopping the spread of horse flu. We want to eliminate this highly contagious disease. It is just so important that people don’t move horses. It is the way we will contain this disease. 

"Those who flaunt the law are letting the whole horse industry down, from pony clubbers all the way through to the racing scene," Roth added.

Penalties of $44,000 (Australian) or 12-months in jail are possible for those ignoring the stop-movement ban.

Anyone with information about horses being transported illegally can contact their local police or Crime Stoppers at 1800 333 000 (Australia).

We are asking anyone who needs information about the current situation to contact the Public Help Hotline 1800 675 888, or go to www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/equine-influenza.

NSW Department of Primary Industries call center has handled more than 5,000 calls since the outbreak of equine influenza.

Horses are a Major NSW Industry

Controlling equine influenza is vital to protect the NSW horse industry from ongoing treatment costs and movement restrictions, stated a government press release.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures calculated the annual value to the Australian economy of the Thoroughbred and harness racing sectors alone to be more than $1.4 billion in 2004-2005. In NSW alone, the Thoroughbred racing industry employed more than 3,300 people.

Australia has the second-largest number of registered Thoroughbred horses in the world--outranked only by the United States, according to the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). Figures show that in 2005-2006 about 1,700 Thoroughbred horses were exported from Australia, mainly to influenza-free New Zealand.

There are more than 70 individual horse breed associations in Australia, most associated with sectors of the industry such as recreation and equestrian, according to the RIRDC.

One of the largest, the Australian Stock Horse Society, has 9,500 members with more than 170,000 registered horses. The Australian Quarter Horse Association has 6,000 members with more than 139,000 horses.

Roth said there would be a high cost to all sectors of the horse industry if influenza were to become endemic.

"The costs of vaccination alone are estimated to be millions of dollars a year," he said. "Then there would be all the additional costs associated with veterinary care and potential losses from foal mortalities.

"Infected horses could require an extended recovery period following infection, which could delay the return of Thoroughbreds and pacers to racing for months and add further to the cost," he added.

"If other (Australian) states remain free of horse flu there could also be severe and expensive restrictions on horse movement into and out of NSW, similar to import and export quarantine requirements," Roth said. "It is better to eradicate horse flu now--even if it takes months--than to live with the permanent economic and animal health consequences of the highly contagious disease."

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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