USDA Ease on Quarantine is Music to the Ears of Dancing Stallions

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Entertainment horses like the white stallions of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna will be able to enjoy a more lenient import process while touring the USA in the future, according to the US Department of Agriculture's new ruling.

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Need a good reason for a headache? Try importing a performing stallion troupe into the USA from a CEM-infected country. (CEM stands for Contagious Equine Metritis, an equine venereal disease) The paperwork and quarantine could take longer than the tour!

This has always been a known obstacle to the tours of groups like the horse-circus/opera Cavalia or the regal performances of the centuries-old Spanish Riding School Lipizzaners from Austria. A 2007 outbreak of CEM at the SRS forced cancellation of the 2008 USA tour, which is now being re-scheduled.

The new plans should be easier, thanks to an announcement made today: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has amended its import rules to allow noncompetitive entertainment horses to be temporarily brought into the U.S. from countries affected with the venereal disease, Contagious Equine Metritis. The final rule, titled Temporary Importation of Horses: Noncompetitive Entertainment Horses From Countries Affected with Contagious Equine Metritis, is effective July 7, 2008.

Noncompetitive entertainment horses are those that participate in performances or exhibitions and are not entered into competitions, such as races or shows. Examples of such horses include circus horses, the Spanish Riding School's Lippizans of Austria and the Lusitano and Andalusian performance stallions in Cavalia.

The final rules allow these non-competitive entertainment horses to enter the U.S. without having to be test bred under a special permit that is longer than the 90 day permit for competitive horses. The new rules impose additional requirements for the importation of these horses, including additional information that must be provided to apply for a permit and the plans and itineraries for housing, transit and performances while in the U.S. The permits, if approved, will last for one year, and the importer can apply to renew the permit.

The rules require that these noncompetitive entertainment horses be imported and maintained in the U.S. though a trust fund agreement executed by the horse's owner or importer. This would ensure that the government is reimbursed for the services it provides, such as administrative costs and costs for a USDA representative to monitor the horses. The agreement is also intended to ensure that the importer will be able to fully uphold the requirements specified for these horses over extended periods of time.

Thanks to the American Horse Council for this update.

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