NAIS Working Group for the Horse Industry
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the NAIS?
A: The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is a voluntary program intended to identify animals and record their movements for the purpose of disease management and control. The ultimate goal of this identification system is to create an effective, uniform national animal tracing system that will help maintain the health of U.S. herds and flocks. When fully operational, it is hoped that it will allow animal tracing to be completed within 48 hours of disease detection, ensuring rapid containment of the disease, protecting our country’s animals and allowing for continued commerce.
Q: What is the ESWG?
A: Equine Species Working Group (ESWG) is the task force officially recognized by the USDA to evaluate the concept of the National Animal Identification System and its application to the equine industry. The group’s responsibility is to develop recommendations for a national equine identification plan that is in the best interests of, and protects the rights of, horse owners and breeders. The ESWG has submitted comments and continuously updated recommendations to USDA that distinguish the horse industry from other livestock, pointing out the unique characteristics of the industry and outlining our positions and concerns with a national ID program.
Q: Is the ESWG a committee of the American Horse Council?
A: No. The ESWG is an independent coalition of over 30 National Equine Organizations. The American Horse Council is one of the many members of the ESWG and as such is involved in evaluating the NAIS and developing recommendations on how the horse industry might fit into the program.
Q: Why is the ESWG reviewing any plan to include equines in the NAIS?
A: The ESWG is engaged because if the horse industry does not participate in the program’s evaluation and development, a national system could be implemented without its input. The purpose of the NAIS is to protect the livestock industry in case there is an outbreak of a potentially catastrophic animal disease or an attack of bio-terrorism. Either scenario could result in a significant loss to the horse industry and seriously limit a horse owner’s ability to move or export horses. There is strong support for NAIS at USDA, in Congress, with the state animal health authorities and within the livestock industry. The ESWG believes that it is in the best interests of the horse industry to work with those instituting NAIS to be sure that our industry’s specific concerns are understood and considered.
Q: Does the NAIS stop disease?
A: No. The NAIS is not a program that will stop disease, but is a program intended to stop the SPREAD of disease and to allow commerce and movement to continue if a disease outbreak does occur. The sooner animal health officials can identify infected and exposed animals and premises, the sooner they can contain the disease and stop its spread. This will also allow a quicker lifting of any restrictions on movement and commerce.
Q: Is the effort to create an equine identification plan linked in any way to the slaughter of horses for human consumption or meat quality?
A: NO. The plan is being formulated as a way to identify animals involved in an outbreak of serious infectious or contagious diseases that may spread rapidly among horses, other livestock or humans. The slaughter of horses for human consumption has not been a part of the discussions and the members of the ESWG include associations that support a ban on the slaughter of horses, organizations that oppose a ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption and organizations that do not have a position on the ban on slaughter of horses for human consumption. The NAIS is intended to protect animals from disease as well as to identify those that have a disease or may have been exposed to a disease so that they may be treated quickly and minimize the economic impact of the disease outbreak.
Q: Since horses are not used for human consumption in the U.S., why should the horse industry be involved in the NAIS?
A: The NAIS is about the health of our nation’s livestock, not just food safety. The horse industry is an integral part of this nation’s livestock community and as such has a responsibility to consider a national livestock program that will benefit it as well as other livestock industries. The horse industry benefits from being a part of the livestock industry through tax relief, disease control and research through the USDA and disaster funding.
Q: Are there diseases that affect horses that also affect other livestock or humans?
A: Yes, there are several. Some diseases that affect horses, other livestock and even humans include rabies, salmonella, ringworm, anthrax, screwworm and vesicular stomatitis. More information on the different diseases that can affect not only horses but other livestock and humans can be found in the diseases section of this booklet.
Q: Are there any bio-terrorism concerns involving equine diseases?
A: Several diseases of horses have long been recognized as capable of being used as a bio-terrorist weapon, such as glanders and Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis. Glanders is a disease of horses, mules and donkeys and has not been found in the U.S. since the early 1900’s. Glanders can be spread to humans through horses and was used by the German army in World War I to sicken enemy soldiers. In its bioweapons program, the former Soviet Union was producing the bacterial agent that causes glanders as late as the early 1980's. Glanders continues to exist in several third world countries, some of which have recently become members of the European Union. The U.S. requires that all horses imported into the U.S., including
U.S. horses that are temporarily exported for competition purposes, to be tested negative for glanders before being permitted to enter (or re-enter as the case may be) the domestic population.
Q: What horses should be officially identified?
A: The ESWG has recommended that official identification is necessary when a horse is transported to any premises where a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI), Brand Inspection, VS-127 permit, or International CVI is required. For the most part, this would exclude those horses participating in recreational activities, weekend ropings, trail rides, and other small gatherings of horses.
Q: Will I have to report every time my horse moves off its premises?
A: No. The ESWG has recommended to the USDA that no movements be recorded. The ESWG feels that the records maintained through the CVIs, Brand Inspections, VS-127 permits and International CVIs covers the high risk movements and are satisfactory for traceback purposes.
Q: Is the NAIS going to be mandatory in 2008?
A: The NAIS is a voluntary program. There are no regulations being developed at this time for the NAIS to be a nationally-mandated program. The ESWG has recommended that the plan not apply to the horse industry until 2010. There are many states, such as Wisconsin with mandatory premises registration, that are developing their own legislation on certain components of the NAIS. It is recommended that you check with your state Department of Agriculture to learn more on how your state is currently implementing the NAIS and what its future plans are for the program’s implementation.
Q: How do I get more information on the NAIS?
A: To find out more about the NAIS you can visit the following website: www.usda.gov/nais. You can also visit the ESWG website found at www.equinespeciesworkinggroup.com. We also recommend that you contact your state Department of Agriculture to learn more on how your state is progressing with the implementation with the NAIS. Contact information for each state Departments of Agriculture can be found on the previously mentioned NAIS website.