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The AAEP has provided some of the basic information on this issue as it has been developing. Dr. Jim Morehead, on behalf of the the AAEP, co-chaired the Equine Species Working Group (ESWG), which was formed in 2006. The ESWG was charged with making recommendations to the USDA on how a national identification program might work most effectively with horses, considering their unique nature compared to other types of livestock (showing, racing, etc.).
The ESWG was merely a part of the overall structure of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Click here for information that was developed for veterinarians by the NAIS.
Information for your clients about the current status
The USDA announced in 2006 a plan for animal identification titled the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The reason for the NAIS is to develop a system that would identify livestock (including horses), livestock premises, and track certain movements so that a major disease or bio-terrorist attack could be quickly contained and eradicated. Furthermore, only movements requiring a health certificate will need to have permanently identified horses. All of the different species groups were given the opportunity to help develop what such a program may look like for their particular species. As a result, the American Horse Council formed the Equine Species Working Group (ESWG) to help develop guidelines for the identification of horses so as to have minimal impact on our industry. Drs. Marvin Beeman and Jim Morehead served on this 30-person working group representing the AAEP, with Dr. Morehead serving as co-chair.
A few important points to know:
• Currently, this system is voluntary. Some states are mandating parts of the system within their state, for example mandatory premises registration in Wisconsin, but the NAIS as a national comprehensive program is not mandatory, and, according to the USDA, they have no intention of it ever being mandatory.
• Microchips have been determined to be the most effective method for identification.
• A 134.2 Mhz microchip has been recommended by the ESWG as the preferred microchip for a couple of reasons:
> It is the international standard
> It supports a 15-digit identification number, which is what the USDA required in their NAIS plan
• Currently, the recommended microchip is unavailable in the United States; therefore, the AAEP has not made a strong push to our membership about implanting chips until this particular chip, and readers to support this chip, become readily available.
• The current microchip widely used in the United States is the 125 Mhz chip. It is believed that horses with this microchip already implanted will be “grandfathered” into the system.
• While the AAEP is part of the ESWG, our focus has always been directed towards the best interest of the horse, rather than specific chips or data storage issues.
It is important to note that the horse industry has not initiated equine identification. This came as a result of a mandate from the USDA. If clients have concerns over animal identification, they should contact the USDA or their Congressional representative. The role of the Equine Species Working Group was to try to make this system workable for the horse industry with as few problems as possible.
American Association of Equine Practitioners