To the Editor:
Every state in the Union requires that all equines entering their state have a valid 30-day Veterinary Health Certificate before they can enter that state. Keeping the 30-day certificates up-to-date can become a burdensome and expensive requirement for horse owners. There is also consensus that because of the difficulties with the certificates, compliance is spotty at best.
Health certificates do provide two important services to the health and safety of the equine population in Wyoming. First, they assure that the horse was in good health at the time of the inspection, but since they are valid for 30 days, there is no guarantee the horse is healthy even 10 days later. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, they allow the state to track movement of horses when an equine disease outbreak occurs. In Wyoming that has been very helpful in the outbreaks of Vesticular Stomatitus we have seen in the past few years, as well as the outbreak of Equine Herpes that originated in Ogden, Utah and the outbreak at Sunland Park in New Mexico this winter.
In three areas of the nation, states have set up a six-month Equine Health Passport system to replace the 30-day health certificate. All of the southern states from Texas to Florida are working together in two regions with a Passport system, and the states of Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington have formed a Northwest Passport Region.
Each state has slightly different rules, but since Montana is closest to Wyoming, we will describe their system.
In Montana, the horse owner obtains a health certificate from their veterinarian and then submits a form to the Montana Livestock Board for the Passport. The Passport is valid for six months. A lifetime brand inspection and a current EIA (Coggins) test is required, along with a five dollar fee per horse. When a horse with a valid Passport travels to a state in the Passport Region, they are required to notify the state they are entering. In Montana, the owner calls the Livestock Board on a 24-hour hotline and obtains an import number. No additional health inspection is required. The Montana Livestock Board is setting up a database program, so the horse owner will soon be able to obtain an import number over the internet.
The Montana State Veterinarian does reserve the right to require additional health inspections in the event of a disease outbreak.
The Wyoming Horse Council is proposing that the Wyoming Livestock Board join the other four states in the Northwest Region, so Wyoming equines can travel to those four states under a Passport. The Wyoming Horse Council also believes, if we work with the Horse Councils in Colorado, Nebraska, Utah and South Dakota, it would be possible to develop Passport programs in those states also.
The Wyoming Livestock Board is working to revise their import rules this spring, so this effort is timely. Individual or equine organizations that believe Equine Health Passports would be a benefit for Wyoming are encourage to write a letter of support so we can show the Livestock Board that the horse industry would support this change.
If you have any questions contact Bill Gentle at 307-634-1743.
Wyoming Horse Council