The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is temporarily closing the Miami Animal Import Center to new arrivals after a handful of horses quarantined at the facility became sick. APHIS employees are investigating to determine the specific cause of illness in these horses, however, officials suspect salmonella, and the facility is taking precautions to stop further disease spread.
The temporary closure is effective Saturday, Jan. 19, and stalls will be closed through March 31. APHIS is conducting environmental testing at the facility, and the samples will be sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories for diagnostic testing. Before reopening, the facility will undergo a complete cleaning and disinfection with disinfection targeted to any causative disease agent identified or suspected. Horses currently under quarantine at the facility are being closely monitored for any signs of illness.
Six horses presented with symptoms, such as diarrhea, fever and lameness, but one horse was found lame due to a transport injury, not illness. The other five horses were transported to a private veterinary facility. Despite receiving immediate medical treatment, three of the horses died. The other two horses are recovering.
Samples were collected from the sick horses and were sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories for testing. Once the disease is identified, the facility will under go a complete cleaning and disinfection prior to reopening.
In response to the sick horses, APHIS officials at the import center have increased biosecurity and disinfection efforts. They are also reviewing standard operating procedures with employees and verifying that all procedures are being followed. Employees at the import center are exempted from the furlough, and the government shutdown has not affected operations or staffing at the facility.
Employees at the import center are reaching out to horse brokers who have upcoming reservations at the facility to notify them of the temporary closure and apologizing for the inconvenience. Those with reservations between Jan. 16-19 can choose to maintain their quarantine reservations or make alternate arrangements. Horses that are already at the facility will remain at the import center to complete the quarantine process and will be released to their brokers as scheduled unless the brokers seek alternate arrangements.
The import center has approximately 95 individual horse stalls available for quarantine purposes. In addition to horse facilities, the import center also has a separate quarantine area for birds. APHIS veterinarians are monitoring all birds under quarantine and have not seen any signs of illness. The avian facility will remain open and intake of new birds will continue as scheduled.