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The US Animal Identification Plan and the Horse Industry

Press Release

January 2004 - Many in the horse industry are learning of the US Animal Identification Plan (USAIP or Plan) and they are naturally concerned about what it means to horseowners. Unfortunately, some of the information that is being circulated about the USAIP and its potential impact on the horse industry is misunderstood or inaccurate. For instance, some believe that the Plan requires all horses to have an identifying ear tag by 2006. This is not true. In addition, the deadlines set out in the USAIP are for when a numbering system should be in place and possibly applicable to cattle and swine, but NOT horses or other livestock. In fact, the Plan does not apply to horses now, although it does include a blank section for horses that can be fleshed out in the future.

The American Horse Council (AHC) is very familiar with the USAIP and has been monitoring its development for some time. In fact, the AHC has organized a task force, which includes nearly thirty national equine organizations, to evaluate the USAIP and determine if the horse industry could develop standards for equine identification that would benefit the industry and be compatible with the USAIP. Information about the plan and its potential effect on the horse industry is available at the AHC website at

The USAIP has been developed by a team representing many of the nation's major animal agriculture industries. These individuals came together because they believe that the ability to trace animals quickly in the event of an outbreak of a major animal disease is vital to ensuring the continued operation and viability of our enormous animal agriculture industry. Some of the animal agriculture organizations involved include the Livestock Marketing Association, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Milk Producers Federation, the National Pork Producers Council and the American Sheep Industry. The U. S. Department of Agriculture has also lent expertise to the group as well.

This group, originally known as the U.S. Animal Identification Working Group, was formed out of concern about the destruction that diseases such as Foot And Mouth Disease (FMD), Hog Cholera and BSE (Mad Cow Disease) might have on the US livestock industry. These industries recognized the destruction such diseases had inflicted on many of our nation's trading partners.

Now, with a major sector of the US livestock industry reeling from the diagnosis of a BSE-positive cow in Washington State and in Canada, the need for accurate, rapid, individual animal identification has shown to be vital in tracing the origin and movement of diseased and/or exposed animals and in containing, controlling and eradicating the disease.

The USAIP is intended to establish a standardized, alpha-numeric system for animal identification. The purpose of such a system is to permit “trace back” within 48 hours of a confirmed diagnosis of an animal disease, such as FMD or BSE. Ensuring animal health in the US, and thereby our ability to market our animals, is the primary reason the animal agriculture industry is looking at a national, standardized, identification system.

As mentioned, the USAIP does not have a section on Equine ID at this time, although a place has been reserved for standards of equine identification. The AHC is working with our member organizations through our National Equine Identification Task Force to evaluate the plan and its benefit to the horse industry, and to determine if the industry could develop standards for equine identification that would fit into the USAIP.

The AHC will continue to follow the implementation of the USAIP by other livestock sectors and our National Equine Identification Task Force will work to determine the role that the horse industry should have in the process.