Australia's Equine Industry Won't Receive Influenza Bill

An Australian government official announced today that the horse industry would not be asked to pay for the expenses associated with last year's outbreak of equine influenza. According to the statement released by Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry Tony Burke, the federal government spent more than $342 million AUD ($323 million U.S.) on eradicating the virus and providing financial assistance to affected individuals, organizations, and businesses.

Equine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease which has a low mortality rate. It was first detected in Australia last August and spread quickly among horse populations in New South Wales and Queensland states. The virus infected 40,000 horses in the first nine weeks of the outbreak.

Australia employs an emergency animal disease response agreement, under which the federal government meets costs and recovers an agreed share from the affected industry, usually over 10 years. However, the horse industry had not yet signed on to participate in this measure before the influenza outbreak began. Legislation to bring the horse industry onboard with the agreement is before the parliament, but the debate was postponed until the issue of last year's costs was resolved.

"Last year's horse flu outbreak had serious economic and social effects," Burke said. "We will now work with industry to deliver what it has wanted for years--to sign up to a national agreement for responding to emergency animal diseases."

The Australian Horse Industry Council released a statement applauding the decision.

"This announcement by Minister Burke is a great relief for the entire horse industry," said Horse Council President Barry Smyth. "It removes the fears of an imposition of financial obligation on an industry that is still recovering from the devastating effects of last year's equine influenza incursion.

"Minister Burke's decision removes uncertainty about the true purpose of the levy bills currently before federal parliament, and the industry is now in a position to consider these without fear of their application to last year's outbreak," Smyth stated. "Agreeing on a levy mechanism will enable the horse industry to sign the emergency animal disease response agreement, which is the next step in protecting the horse industry against possible future exotic disease outbreaks."

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. She owns a portly gray gelding named Duncan and dabbles in several equestrian disciplines, with an emphasis on dressage.

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