Sometimes loading up the trailer becomes so routine that horsemen may forget about some of the regulations surrounding horse transport.
Do you look good in stripes? Is an orange jumpsuit your idea of a personal fashion statement? Ignore state equine import regulations, and a fashion change may be in your future.
Recent plans to participate in an endurance ride in Wisconsin took a dramatic turn for me. Instead of traveling from northern Indiana four hours north, we traveled six hours south, just to use an available free weekend for an event in my home state.
This last-minute change occurred because of my cavalier attitude about interstate horse transportation—an attitude that you may share as well. My bad attitude developed over the past 30 years, hauling horses to compete in American Endurance Ride Conference-sanctioned events. My wife and I have hauled horses into or through 15 western and midwestern states without problems.
I thought I had a valid equine infectious anemia test result form. It was valid for entry into Ohio, not Wisconsin. Ride manager Dawn Haas was very sorry. "But," she said, "if you show up without a test form dated in the current year of travel, you are in violation of Wisconsin state law and could jeopardize the future of our event."
I started to research different state laws for equine importation or transportation and found a surprising number of differences. You may call it hauling, but most states call it importing. Each time you make plans to leave your home state with your equine companion you are not only becoming a livestock transporter, you are becoming a livestock importer as soon as you cross the state line.
Regulations unique to each state apply to you. Timothy Cordes, senior staff veterinarian with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service, said that animal health regulations are controlled by states due to unique livestock industries that "fall under the sovereignty of each state."
All states require a certificate of health from a licensed veterinarian. All states require proof of negative Coggins test for EIA. That's where the uniformity ends. Some states say the valid Coggins form must be issued 12 months prior to arrival. Some use a 13-month cycle. For some states, the time period starts Jan. 1 of the current year. Others specify 13 months beginning Dec. 1 of the previous year. California requires "proof of negative EIA test within six months of entry." New Jersey entry is permitted with a 24-month Coggins test. Some states require horse haulers to get entry permits. Some states require brand inspection papers. Oregon requires an "Exit Permit."
While import regulations may vary, penalties for non-compliance are similar. The one that got my attention read, "Domestic-animals entering the State of Tennessee without proper health certificates or otherwise entering the state in violation of these rules shall be held in quarantine at owner's risk and expense until released or disposed of as determined by the state veterinarian."
According to Cordes, this situation happens "regularly" across the country with only three results if the animal tests positive for EIA. If a retest shows positive for this devastating disease, the horse must either be destroyed, donated for disease research or quarantined for life on the premises of origin.
Advanced planning and specific action is required to prepare for any trip outside your home state. You need your horse and premises inspected by a qualified veterinarian before you leave, and if you haven't had a recent EIA test—in some cases within six months, you will need to make plans to do this as well. These tests need to be done by certified labs that may be at the other end of the state from your farm. It may take days or even weeks to complete and return the test results. Some states do not allow "pending" tests of any kind. So, you have to plan ahead.
The Health Certificate
Often called a "Health Certificate," most states refer to this document as a Certified Veterinarian Inspection form. Variations occur with "Official Certified Veterinarian Inspection form" (OCVI), "Equine Veterinarian Inspection form," or "Certificate." The price of getting an official certified veterinarian inspection also varies from state to state and from veterinarian to veterinarian but seems to be between $5 and $15 per horse per inspection.
The general rule of thumb is that every state requires a complete equine health exam current within 30 days of your entry into a state other than your home state. But there are exceptions. "Special Statements" may need to be added to your official certificate of veterinary inspection. If you are traveling from a state with a documented case of vesicular stomatitis or other contagious disease, you may need specific language on your health certificate. The inspection date for these special situations may change from 30 days to as little as five days before entry if you are entering Oklahoma.
Outbreaks of various diseases increase the likelihood that you will be stopped. There are regional as well as state differences in legal requirements for the additional information on your official certified veterinarian inspection form. Horses traveling from states with reported disease outbreaks often must enter with special permits in addition to the official certified veterinarian inspection form.
Most states have requirements similar to Oklahoma's when vesicular stomatitis outbreaks occur in your home state. Their rules say, "Any livestock (including equine) entering or reentering Oklahoma from a state where vesicular stomatitis has been diagnosed in the last 30 days shall be accompanied by a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection dated within five days of entry containing the following statement: 'All animals listed in this health certificate have been examined and found to be free from signs of vesicular stomatitis and have not originated from a premise(s) which is under quarantine for vesicular stomatitis.''"
Georgia and many southern states are concerned about equine piroplasmosis. Georgia's rules require a statement on your official certified veterinarian Inspection form that your horse has tested, "negative to a test for equine piroplasmosis if they originate in an area where the disease is known to exist, or where the tropical horse tick (Dermacentor nitens) is known to winter over."
The Reasons Why
The simplest thing to do is to talk to your local veterinarian at least a month before you plan to leave your state. Unless they do a lot of these, they will probably need some time to research the requirements for your planned travel states. Technically, each state requires the equine inspection certificate to clearly show your travel destination with a name and complete address. "Mile High Stables" for example is not considered a proper address. You should have a complete street address with address number, city, state and zip code.
You should also have a very complete and accurate description of your horse included on the official certified veterinarian inspection form. Official certified veterinarian inspection forms have little horse pictures to let you and your veterinarian draw in markings, old wounds and other identifying marks unique to your horse. At a minimum you should consult your registration papers to pick up those details, but don't stop there. Your horse may have changed color, or had injuries that change the details of its appearance. When in doubt, draw it in. If a law enforcement official can't be sure the horse you are importing matches the papers you are carrying, you may be in for a difficult time.
Failure to follow the special requirements for each state can result in your horse being impounded or quarantined, with additional tests and inspections required at your expense, and that is before we start talking about jail time and fines for conviction.
Is all of this regulation necessary? Cordes said positive results have been shown. He explained that in 1972, the year that Coggins tests began to be required for EIA, positive test results occurred in 3.8 percent of the 100,000 equines tested. Last year only 0.02 percent of the two million equines tested had positive results. Cordes called this a "logarithmic reduction" for this disease.
In addition to your local veterinarian, animal import regulations by state and territory can be found on the USDA website.
The Global VETLink website is designed for member veterinarians but anyone can access their summary state admission requirement.
Traveling with your equine companion is always an adventure, even when you are well prepared. Be safe by getting your paper work done well in advance of your trip.
Brand inspector Harry Miller used to love to tell detailed stories of previously law abiding citizens spending an uncomfortable and humiliating night in the "poky" because they didn't have the right documentation and certification with them when they crossed the state line. With advanced preparation and the tips offered here, you will avoid becoming a good story for your local brand inspector. Your horse will be more comfortable, too.