Friday, March 29, 2013


A few days ago I watched a woman cradle in one of her arms the head of a six year old Thoroughbred mare. The woman whispered sweet nothings in the mare’s ear. The mare closed her eyes in a trance of deep contentment. I listened intently to see if I could hear the mare purring like a kitten. This was an example of cross-species communion.

Years ago when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer trainee. Another trainee was practicing horsemanship as part of preparation to live in rural areas of South America where personal transportation was provided by beasts of burden. His horse reared up and the rider slid backwards behind the horse and onto the ground. The horse sat down upon the rider and broke the rider’s pelvis.

Horses are not kittens. They are not lap dogs. They are not treated as pets by most legal regimes in most places in most countries. And for purposes of movement across international borders, they are treated as disposable products. Many of the rules of buying and selling across international borders apply, matters such as when ownership passes, when risk of loss passes, payment terms, third party liability, and so on. And sometimes, just as with a bag of spoiled or contaminated onions imported from abroad, upon inspection at their U.S. port of entry they might face being thrown away. By being thrown away, I mean that they might be euthanized.

The United States Department of Agriculture maintains an animal import center headquarters and field quarantine facilities in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Those seeking to import horses from abroad must seek a permit for importation from the Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service (APHIS) before shipping from the country of origin. Miami, Florida is one of several approved ports for entry of horses into the United States.

To be admitted, a horse upon admission at a U.S. port cannot have been on premises where African horse sickness, dourine, glanders, surra, epizootic lymphangitis, ulcerative lymphangitis, equine piroplasmosis, equine infectious anemia (EIA), contagious equine metritis (CEM), vesicular stomatitis, or Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE) have occurred during the 60 days immediately preceding exportation, nor should these diseases have occurred on any adjoining premises
during this same period of time.

A horse projected for importation cannot have been in a country where CEM (contagious equine metritis) is known to exist, nor have had any contact, breeding or otherwise, with horses from such a country, for the 12 months preceding exportation. The horse must have been inspected and found to be free of ectoparasites.

In this very brief presentation I am going to discuss, inter alia, the phrase adjoining premises. The importer seeking to import a horse into the U.S. from abroad must receive certifications from specified authorities in the country from which the horse is being imported that the horse meets the criteria to qualify for importation. One of the items for certification is that the horse during the 60 days immediately preceding exportation did not have any of the diseases listed, nor did the diseases occur on any adjoining premises
during this same period of time.
A practical application of the rule could involve the following: the importer requires that the exporter check the target horse check for all of the diseases listed above. If the horse is found clean of everything, and if it can be proven that the horse has been on what might be identified as "clean premises" for 60 days, the horse is ready for exportation. And I would suggest that the horse should be transported by clean means (chain of logistics) from departure to arrival at the U.S. port.

If the target horse has a disease that can be cured, and the economic arrangements can be reached between seller and buyer, then if the horse is cured it should be moved to a clean zone not adjoining where the horse has been previously, and remain in the clean zone for 60 days before being exported. One cannot predict with certainty what the USDA will do in a specific case, but my own research leads me to believe that the phrase adjoining premises are premises which touch and are connected, or in contact, with the other premises involved, rather than those merely lying near or adjacent. That means that the safe zone, the clean zone for holding horses for 60 days, can be close to the premises which in and of themselves would disqualify the horse from entering the United States.

Now we will discuss due diligence. If you are the buyer/importer and you totally trust the exporter/seller, and you are satisfied that as to each, your word is your bond, you may some day be the proud owner of a horse imported into the United States which is euthanized by the United States Department of Agriculture because it harbored a prohibited disease. At least try to take pictures of the horse while it is vital and breathing, something to cherish. But if you are even slightly anal, do due diligence. Identify the diseases endemic to the area from which your target horse originates. Understand which of the diseases are treatable and which are not. Have thorough and complete testing done, and make sure the purchase contract does not become binding unless the horse gets a clean bill of health. Find out who will be doing the testing and certification, and decide whether you are willing to trust the results. Make sure that the horse testing clean or becoming clean after treatment stays for 60 days in a clean holding zone prior to exportation. Check out each link in the logistics chain from start to finish. Make sure there is no chance of infection or re-infection resulting from a contaminated link in the logistics chain. And then hold your breath. And when you start breathing again, mount up and ride, Ladies and Dudes.

Gary D. Malfeld

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