It almost sounds like Noah’s Ark, two crows, two giraffes, and so on. Lately listservs by horse people talk a lot about the United States government’s program to track all of the animals. After I read a few of these comments I got worried. I wanted to know what was going on. Along with a lot of other people, I thought, “Some horses travel more and farther than a lot of people. How is the government going to keep track of them? Are they going to follow me when I trail ride through the Cascade foothills? What right do they have to do that?”
I had a lot of questions and not many answers so I checked on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Website for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/about/index.shtml. There I found out this program started listening to livestock owners in a nationwide series of Listening Sessions conducted in every state in 2003.
In addition, the USDA set up special groups for cattle, for sheep, AND for horses. The group for horses is called the Equine Species Working Group. This group includes representatives from many, many horse organizations ranging from the Arabian Horse Association to the Jockey Club and the United States Equestrian Team, see the list below
Reading stuff on a government Website is okay, but I like to hear real, live people tell me what is going on so I went to The Mid-Columbia Livestock Producers Workshop in The Dalles, OR, close to my home. While the presentation that day was mostly for cattle producers, they explained that the animal tracking program is developing very slowly because they have to iron out the problems.
I think the situation with this program right now is as the government says on the front of their Draft Program Standards:
. . . the NAIS is now voluntary, stakeholders [Dee says, “Stakeholders, that’s us.”] recognize that the participation by the entire industry will be necessary to achieve a highly successful animal traceback/trace forward system [Dee says, “They’re talking about their tracking system”] to support animal disease management programs. The program, with industry input, reflects USDA’s view on how the NAIS could work if mandatory requirements are established in the future. Public comment and ongoing dialogue with the participation by the entire industry will provide invaluable feedback to the continued development of the NAIS.
What they are saying is, “We are going to do this tracking program. We need your help to do it right.”
In the end there has to be some sort of system to track the diseases animals carry and pass to one another and to humans. Thousands of cows were slaughtered in England a few years ago due to a Hoof and Mouth Disease epidemic. Recently, Mad Cow Disease caused a panic here in our country. I guess we have to worry about the bird flu problem, too.
Truthfully, we have to get involved to make sure the horse part of the tracking system comes as close as possible to meeting our needs. I want an easy-to-use way of doing things that leaves me as free as possible to care for and enjoy my horses for many, many years to come. I plan to have my say through the representatives to the Equine Species Working Group from the horse organizations that represent me such as Debbie Fuentes, the Arabian Horse Association; L. B. Fleming, DVM, the American Endurance Ride Conference; and Alan Hill of the Back Country Horsemen of America.
Whether you ride Quarter Horses or Saddlebreds, I hope you stay in touch with your representatives, too. Get involved, talk to them, let them know what you think about this matter.
You may find your representatives’ names on the list below, I found it on the USDA Website and am glad to share it with you.
Until next time. Dee
Mr. Alan Balch
American Saddlebred Horse Association
Dr. G. Marvin Beeman
Trustee American Horse Council
Mr. Remi Bellocq
The National H.B.P. A., Inc.
Mr. Doug Burge
California Thoroughbred Breeders Assn.
Ms. Cindy Chilton
Palomino Horse Breeders of America
Dr. Tim Cordes
Senior Staff Veterinarian
Dr. Douglas Corey
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assn
Mr. Paul Estok
Harness Tracks of America
Ms. J. Amelita Facchiano
Global VetLink, LC
Mr. Dan Fick
The Jockey Club
Dr. L. B. Fleming
American Endurance Ride Conference
Mr. Alan Foreman
Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, Inc.
Ms. Debbie Fuentes
Arabian Horse Association
Dr. Mary Giddens
Mr. Jim Gowen
Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau
Dr. Nancy Halpern
New Jersey Department of Agriculture
Div. Of Animal Industry
Dr. Steve Halstead
Michigan Dept. of Agriculture
Animal Industry Division
Mr. Neil Hammerschmidt
Animal Identification Coordinator
Dr. James Heird
Colorado State University
College of Agricultural Sciences
Ms. Peggy Hendershot
National Thoroughbred Racing Association
Mr. Jay Hickey, Jr.
President American Horse Council
Mr. Alan Hill
Back Country Horsemen of America
Mr. Jeff Hooper
National Cutting Horse Association
Mr. Charles Hulsey
Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' & Exhibitors' Association
Ms. Bonnie Jenkins
U.S. Equestrian Team
Mr. Jim Kelley
American Paint Horse Association
Dr. Mack Lea, Jr.
Louisiana State Veterinarian
Louisiana Dept. of Agriculture
Office of Animal Health Services
Mr. Bob Luehrman
U.S. Trotting Association
Ms. Amy Mann
Director, Health and Regulatory Affairs
American Horse Council
Mr. C.J. Marcello, Jr.
Paso Fino Horse Association
Mr. Dan Metzger
Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association
Dr. Jim Morehead
American Association of Equine Practitioners
Mr. Joe Santarelli, Sr.
Mersant International Ltd
Ms. Cindy Schonholtz
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assn
Mr. Ward Stutz
American Quarter Horse Association
Mr. David Switzer
Kentucky Thoroughbred Association
Dr. Peter Timoney
University of Kentucky
Mr. Dan Wall
National Reining Horse Association
 Accessed at Website http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/audiences/horses/equineworkgroup.shtml on March 25, 2006.