|By ANN HINCH
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Imagine not having to update travel paperwork on a show horse more than a couple of times a year and having all-purpose paperwork for one’s animal.
Florida’s been doing this for a while, as have other states in the Southern District of the U.S. Animal Health Assoc. (USAHA).
Tennessee will soon join the fold by issuing its first Equine Interstate Movement Permit, or “passport,” to allow the recipient to truck their horses across state lines to multiple fairs, exhibitions, trail rides and other horse-related events.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a really new concept, except so far as taking it to a larger group of states,” said Dr. Ron Wilson, state veterinarian with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA).
Those others are Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Louisi-ana, Mississippi, the Carolinas and West Virginia. Virginia and Kentucky are expected to join soon.
When dental hygienist Carolyn Rand of Apison wants to take her horse Mo Betta to a trail ride across the state, she merely needs to drive the mare there. Each time she wants to venture outside Tennessee, however, she needs to obtain a 30-day certificate of veterinary inspection listed for that specific destination.
Not everyone is as honest about the hassle. “A lot of people just don’t do it,” she explained. “But even if nobody did the law before, it’s nice (TDA) is giving people something to obey it (now).”
Rand is awaiting approval of her passport application from Nashville. It will mean less spent on vet certificates – each passport is good for six months – but it also means a Coggins test for Equine Infectious Anemia twice a year instead of once. While the passport itself is free, she said it does require horses to be up-to-date on shots and checkups.
“Hopefully, it’ll force some people who absolutely don’t do anything (to vaccinate their horses) to at least do something,” she said.
Another requirement of the passport is that the horse’s home premises be registered with USDA’s National Animal Identification System. Wilson said the idea is to turn the passport into an animal movement/tracking program, as horse owners will still be required to keep logs of the animals’ travel.
Some professionals believe the checkups should come more often than every 180 days. Kentucky signed the contract to participate in the passport program two years ago, but the finer points are still churning through legislative review process. Its state veterinarian, Dr. Robert Stout, sees the convenience of allowing equine owners a regional area in which to move more freely, but pointed out much about a horse’s health can change in six months.
“In creating that convenience, I want to make sure we’re not destroying something we’ve used to purpose for a long time,” he explained. “In Kentucky, we have some very stringent regulations on movement, and it might be difficult for us to monitor that under the passport document.”
Certainly there are examples of the need for caution, since Kentucky is a major crossroads of equine traffic in the United States. In December, a case of equine herpes in a Thoroughbred at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., triggered a quarantine and two-month investigation from Stout’s office. While there’s nothing that prevents a state from imposing its own regulations on top of the passport, Stout pointed out people simply might not think to check such a thing.
“Communication is a difficult thing when you’re five states away,” he said.
Wilson explained the extended passport only covers horses being shown or entered in contests, not those being sold or bred – that still requires a 30-day certificate. He expects Kentucky might put a shorter time on those participating at its racetracks, just as other states have various exceptions. Even in Tennessee, private event organizers and owners can impose stricter ruless than incumbent on the passport.
To download a Tennessee passport, visit www.tennessee.gov/agriculture
To learn more, call 615-837-5120.
This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.