USDA Proposes Rules for Importation of Non-Competitive Entertainment Horses from Countries Affected with CEM
RELEASE: August 16, 2007
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Sarah Evers
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing to amend existing regulations to allow non-competitive entertainment horses to be temporarily imported from countries affected with the venereal disease Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM). Non-competitive entertainment horses are those that participate in performances or exhibitions and are not entered into any type of competition, such as races or shows. Examples of such horses include circus horses, the Lippizan Horses of Austria and the performance stallions in Cavalia
The American Horse Council has been working on this issue and calling for the USDA to develop this new category of horses within the existing temporary importation regulations. Background
From time to time, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services (VS) receives requests from importers wishing to bring noncompetitive entertainment horses to the U.S. for extended periods of time without having to meet certain import requirements for Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM). Both competition and noncompetitive entertainment horses are required to have health certificates upon importation that certify that cultures that were negative for CEM have been collected, but horses from both categories are not required to go through the additional step of test breeding, as long as certain conditions are followed.
Currently USDA regulations provide two categories of eligibility for exemption from CEM import requirements, one temporary and one permanent. The first is for competition horses such as race or show horses entering for 90 days or less, and the second is for Spanish Purebred Horses from Spain.
In some cases, the two categories have been unsuitable for the specific needs of companies importing noncompetitive entertainment horses, particularly with regard to the length of time planned for their U.S. engagement. In some cases, but not all, the U.S. engagements of these companies are scheduled beyond the 90-day period under which competition horses are able to enter the U.S. without having to meet import requirements for CEM.
Since some groups are scheduled for engagements longer than the standard 90-day period, they must negotiate agreements with USDA for special permits to remain in the country. These permits vary between groups, are difficult to enforce and are time-consuming for the limited USDA staff. Problems arise with the relentless push for extensions of waivers, with the need to constantly monitor the horses, and with the significant amount of staff time it takes to evaluate, develop, monitor and maintain the waivers. Rule Proposal
With the proposed rule, the USDA will be able to standardize the issuance of permits for the temporary importation of noncompetitive entertainment horses, which will address the problem of repeatedly negotiating and issuing special waivers for continued stay in the country. Import Application Details
Under the proposed rule, an importer can apply for a permit which, if approved, will last for one year, and can apply to renew the permit every year indefinitely. Within the application, the importer must give very specific details as to the identification of all horses to be imported, the proposed length of stay, a detailed itinerary that includes the names and locations of the venues where the horse could perform, the performance dates for each venue, and the names and locations of the premises where the horse will be kept, as well as the dates it will be kept there. Additional information that must be included on the application is the methods and routes by which the horse will be transported while in the U.S., a plan for handling sick or injured horses, and contact information for each accredited veterinarian that would provide services to the imported horse. All of this information is key to maki