APHIS Announces New Procedures to Regulate Contagious Equine Metritis


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By: Jocelyn Arlinghaus, Staff Member

The beginning of 2012 has heralded new developments in the fight to eliminate contagious equine metritis (CEM) in the United States. CEM is a venereal disease common to horses caused by the bacterium Taylorella equigenitalis.[1] It is considered extremely dangerous due to its highly contagious nature.[2] The disease is typically transmitted via sexual intercourse during the mating process, but it may also be transmitted through artificial insemination or contact with hands or instruments that have been contaminated.[3] Common symptoms include vaginal discharge, uterine inflammation, and temporary infertility.[4] Stallions show no physical signs of CEM, which makes detecting and controlling the disease before it spreads extremely difficult.[5] During breeding season, a stallion often infects several mares before the presence of the disease is discovered.[6]

CEM was first diagnosed in England in 1977, but had spread to the United States by 1978 with reports documented in central Kentucky and Missouri.[7] The disease was treated and thought to be eliminated from the United States prior to 2006, when two imported stallions in Wisconsin tested positive for the CEM bacteria.[8] Another outbreak was confirmed in December 2008, when five mares and 23 stallions in eight states tested positive for the CEM bacterium.[9] Although the 28 initially discovered horses were cured of the disease, another 977 horses were exposed to Taylorella equigenitalis in the outbreak, which spanned 48 states.[10] CEM was subsequently discovered in Arabian stallions in May 2010 in California and in July 2011 in Arizona.[11] The USDA’s National Veterinary Service (NVSL) has confirmed that in all cases the infected stallions were contaminated prior to arrival in the United States.[12] Interestingly, the strain of the isolated bacterium in these new cases did not match any strains previously found in the United States, which indicated that the multiple outbreaks were unrelated and therefore developed as a result of separate equine imports from foreign countries.[13] Efforts to eradicate the recent string of outbreaks in the United States continue. Because mares can only be bred during certain times of the year, CEM can substantially impact equine reproductive efficiency.[14] If the disease continues to stabilize in the United States, the equine industry will face great economic losses.[15]

The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) has been taking steps to provide additional safeguards against spreading CEM to horses in United States through importation of infected horses. In 2011, APHIS amended the regulations concerning the importation of horses from countries affected with CEM. The new standards require test mares and imported stallions above a certain age to undergo an additional CEM test to improve the chances of detecting the disease.[16] APHIS has also imposed stricter certification requirements for imported horses 731 days old or less and added new test measures for imported horses more than 731 days old. [17] Yearlings and weanlings require proof that they have not been bread to other horses through artificial insemination in order to be imported.[18]

On January 10, 2012, APHIS announced that it will post lists of states approved to receive imported horses from high-CEM foreign regions to its website rather than including them in the Code of Federal Regulations.[19] This change will not affect the criteria that APHIS uses to determine whether a foreign region should be added or removed from the list or criteria used to approve states to receive horses imported from high-CEM foreign countries.[20] Because these lists will not continue to appear in the Code of Federal Regulations, updates are no longer required to be legislated. [21] This new procedure will enable APHIS to more quickly identify changes in the CEM status of foreign regions and approve states to receive horses from foreign regions where CEM is known to exist.[22] Additionally, this will simplify the process of informing the equine community and the public of any concerns of possible CEM exposure to horses in certain areas of the country. APHIS considers this change to be another step toward eliminating the string of CEM outbreaks and improving the welfare of horses and the equine industry.

[1] Contagious Equine Metritis, United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Mar. 2009), http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/content/printable_version/fs_CEMrev09.pdf

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, supra note 1.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Contagious Equine Metritis Cases, United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/hot_issues/cem/cem_cases.shtml#december (last modified Jan. 26, 2012).

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, supra note 1.

[15] Id.

[16] USDA Announces Interim Rule Regarding the Importation of Horses from Contagious Equine Metritis - Affected Countries, United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Mar. 25, 2011), http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/2011/03/importhorse_cemacountr.shtml

[17] Importation of Horses From Contagious Equine Metritis-Affected Countries, 76 Fed. Reg. 58 (proposed Mar. 25, 2011) (to be codified at 9 C.F.R. pt. 93).

[18] United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, supra note 16.

[19] Lists of Regions Classified With Respect to Certain Animal Diseases and States Approved To Receive Certain Imported Horses, 77 Fed. Reg. 1388 (proposed Jan. 10, 2012), (to be codified at 9 C.F.R. pts. 92, 93, 94, 96, 98).

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

Implications of Rising Hay Costs on Horses


By: Stephen M. Frazier, Senior Staff member

One of the main problems facing horse owners is the necessity of hay.  Unlike cattle and other livestock that can be fed a variety of hay, grain, and silage, horses primarily derive nutrition from quality hay.[1] To compound the problem, owners cannot alleviate the financial burden by feeding horses a mixture of grain and hay because, with corn selling for nearly eight dollars a bushel, grain prices are at an all-time high.[2] As a result, owners are stuck paying $18 to $19 per bale of alfalfa - the same alfalfa that was selling for about $9 a bale a year ago.[3]

The next problem with buying hay is quality. When buying hay, purchasers should be certain to purchase hay of sufficient quality to meet the nutritional needs of horses.[4] Failure to adequately inspect the hay could result in purchasing hay of poor quality that will require additional supplementation, such as protein, to meet nutritional needs.[5] According to agricultural experts, the main factors affecting hay quality are “stage of maturity, leafiness, color, foreign matter, odor, and condition.”[6] These factors can be determined by a visual inspection, or by having the hay tested.[7]

Finally, with the increasing cost of hay, farmers should take necessary and adequate precautions to preserve the hay once it is in their possession. Proper storage of hay bales is vital because this can mitigate or prevent deterioration or spoilage of the hay.[8] Ultimately, storing hay inside a barn is the best option, as it greatly reduces the risk of hay loss.[9] However, if such storage is impossible, then bales stored outside should be placed on some sort of surface, ideally gravel or pallets.[10] Furthermore, the bales should be stored in a well-drained area with at least three feet between rows.[11]

The increasing hay prices have left farmers and horse lovers scrambling to acquire hay. In addition, once they are able to locate a source, the price is nearly double that from a year ago.  Therefore, to ensure that farmers get the best value for their dollar, it is important that they take the time to adequately inspect the hay and take the proper precautions to ensure its safekeeping.

[1] Id.

[2] Julie Ingwersen, Midwest turns dry as drought worsens in Plains, Reuters,  Jul 21, 2011,


[3] Wichner, supra note 1.

[4] Daren Redfearn, Hay Purchasing Guidelines, Department of Plant & Soil Sciences Extension News, Apr. 20, 2011, http://extensionnews.okstate.edu/archived-articles-1/2011-archived-articles/Hay%20puchasing%2 0guidelines %20doc.pdf.

[5] Id.

[6] Mindy Riffle, Weather could impact hay supply, Country World, June 21, 2011, http://countryworldnews.com/news/headlines/900--weather-could-impact-hay-supply.html.

[7] Id.

[8] James Rogers and Robert Wells, Rain Effects on Hay, Noble Foundation, Sept. 2007, http://www.noble.org/ag/forage/raineffects/index.html.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

Abandoned horses, whose property?

By Elizabeth Rives, Staff Member

In May 2008, Pat Dawson of Time.com wrote an article entitled “An Epidemic of Abandoned Horses.” The problem discussed in this article is still around over two years later. According to Dawson, two main factors contribute to the rise in abandoned horses: “rising grain and gas prices” and “the closure of American slaughterhouses.” Pat Dawson, An Epidemic of Abandoned Horse, Time.com, May 28,2008, available at http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1809950,00.html.

Volunteer horse rescue groups are attempting to alleviate the problem but the cost of caring for horses is too great for some to maintain. Carol Holmes, owner and operator of White Cloud Ranch in Malibu, California, spent roughly $2,500 every three weeks on food alone after having 27 horses abandoned on her property. Stephanie Bertholdo, Bad economy causing horses to be abandoned at an alarming level, Thousand Oaks Acorn, January 7, 2010, available at http://www.toacorn.com/news/2010-01-07/Front_Page/Bad_economy_causing_horses_to_be_abandoned_at_an_a.html. Although the cost of keeping and caring for the horses is high, many of the horse rescue groups are weary of giving the horses away because of the possibility that the horses will then be sold to slaughterhouses outside of the U.S. Id.

Most recently in the news, two abandoned horses were rescued in a field in New Mexico. Lee Ross, Two Abandoned Horses Rescued, ABOJournal.com, October 1, 2010, available at http://www.abqjournal.com/abqnews/abqnewseeker-mainmenu-39/24307-two-abandoned-horses-rescued.html. A local horse rescue organization, Walkin’ N Circles Ranch, found the horses in an open field with no available water. Id. Eleanor, one of the horses, was unable to graze because she was missing teeth. Id. Walkin’ N Circles Ranch, is currently nursing the two horses back to health. Id.

The question then becomes, who owns these horses and who is responsible for paying for them? According to Rachel McCart, an equine attorney, this is not always a simple question. Rachel McCart, Abandoned Horses: Finders, Keepers?, Equine Legal Solutions Horse Law Blog (September 15, 2008) http://www.equinelegalsolutions.com/2008/09/abandoned-horses-finders-keepers.html. In most cases, you do not gain title to the horse regardless of if there is a boarder relationship or the horse simply ended up on your property and should contact local authorities to determine the appropriate action to take. Id. The answer to financial responsibility is more difficult. The caregiver might have a hard time getting reimbursed for care or may choose not to fight it because of the legal costs associated with such a battle. Id.
In order to alleviate this problem, there needs to be definitive measures available for people to take who choose to care for abandoned horses.

Out-of-Competition Drug Testing in Time for Breeders' Cup

By: Laurel Benson, Staff Member

Following recent pushes for more stringent drug testing policies, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (“KHRC”) has approved an emergency regulation regarding out-of-competition drug testing for horses. Will Graves, Kentucky approves random drug testing, Lexington Herald-Leader, Sept. 7, 2010, available at http://www.kentucky.com/2010/09/07/1424227/kentucky-approves-out-of-competition.html. The urgency for such a rule arose when Churchill Downs signed the agreement, which requires more stringent testing, with Breeders’ Cup for the 2010 championship, which will be held at Churchill Downs November 5-6 of this year. Tom LaMarra, Kentucky Drug-Test Upgrade Needed for BC, Aug. 11, 2010, http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/58327/kentucky-drug-test-upgrade-needed-for-bc. Breeders’ Cup has used out-of-competition testing for the last three years, in both California and New Jersey. Id. While Churchill Downs could have enacted a house rule, the KHRC wanted a more permanent rule, and with the Breeders’ Cup quickly approaching, the need arose for emergency regulation, which goes into effect almost immediately. Id.

The new regulations themselves are fairly stringent. The policy will allow the KHRC to test any horse eligible to race in Kentucky regardless of their location at any time for illegal blood-doping agents, growth hormones, and nerve-blocking venoms. Janet Patton, Proposed equine drug-testing rule questioned, Lexington Herald-Leader, Aug. 26, 2010, available at http://www.kentucky.com/2010/08/26/1406726/proposed-blood-doping-rule-questioned.html. This policy adds to current race-day testing, and is deemed to be necessary because while blood-doping agents are only detectable for a short period of time after being administered, the effects of such agents linger for weeks. Id. The new policy grants no more than six hours after notification for an owner or trainer to make a horse available for testing. Graves, supra. Refusal to submit to testing in that time makes the horse ineligible to race in Kentucky for six months, and a positive test for some of the drugs would impose a minimum five-year suspension and up to $50,000 in fines on the owner or trainer. Id. A second violation will result in a lifetime ban for that handler. Id.

The regulation will go into effect once signed by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and filed with the Legislative Research Commission. Id. The filing should occur in plenty of time for the Breeders' Cup, but only time will tell how easily enforced these new regulations will be.