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.

Horses as Service Animals?

By: Catherine Barrett, Staff Member

On March 15, 2011, the definition of “service animal” under federal regulations changed from “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks”[1]to “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks”[2] (emphases added). The new definition excludes all other species from full legal protection, including miniature horses.

Miniature horses are a new option in the field of assistance animals. Although few are in use in the United States, horses trained to guide the blind provide a valuable alternative when a dog is unsuitable, as in the case of observant Muslims, who view dogs as unclean.[3] Guide horses are trained to perform the same tasks as guide dogs.[4] Horses appeal to those who are allergic to dogs, have a task that requires greater strength and stamina, and those who simply prefer horses.[5]

Miniature horses are the only species other than dogs mentioned in the new regulations.[6]Although horses and their owners do not get the same level of protection, their utility is at least recognized; all other nontraditional species, including trained monkeys and parrots, are excluded from being considered service animals.[7]

It is important to balance the rights of the businesses expected to accommodate service animals. Even if miniature, a horse is much more difficult to accommodate in human spaces than a dog. Horses cannot curl up compactly in vehicles or underneath tables. They require more space[8] and have more difficulty going down stairs than dogs.[9] While the new regulations segregate miniature horses from true “service animals,” public entities are required to make “reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures” to permit their use.[10] When considering whether modifications are “reasonable,” the entity may consider the size of the miniature horse, whether the handler has control over it, whether it is housebroken, and whether the horse’s presence would compromise legitimate safety requirements.[11]

If guide horses are useful enough that they must be accommodated under “reasonable” circumstances, then they should be defined as “service animals.” While the regulations have separately protected their use in public, excluding horses may cause their owners other legal problems in private as landlords and state laws restrict where they may be kept.[12]

It is important to remember that America’s most iconic service animal, the Seeing Eye dog, is less than a hundred years old.[13] It would be naïve to assume that we have explored all the ways in which animals can help people to live fuller lives, and innovation cannot occur unless novel service animals can be used in public areas. Individuals need the freedom to be pioneers. Abuses should be punished,[14] but should not lead to a definition of “service animal” so narrow that it excludes domesticated animals with which humanity has had a long and successful partnership.

The clear solution is to legally define service animals by their training, not by their species. The original definition, emphasizing training to perform tasks, allowed those judging service animals to consider “function, not form.”[15] A broad definition lets each individual choose the service animal best suited to his needs, while still leaving room to protect public health and safety in its application by the courts.[16]

[1] “Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.” 28 C.F.R. § 36.104 (1991).

[2] “Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.” 28 C.F.R. § 35.104 (2010)(effective March 15, 2011).

[3] Ben Leubsdorf, Seeing-eye horse guides blind Muslim woman, Health care on MSNBC.com,http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30155540/ns/health-health_care/ (last visited Sept. 5, 2011).

[4] Common Misconceptions about Guide Horses, The Guide Horse Foundation,http://www.guidehorse.org/misconceptions.htm (last visited Sept. 5, 2011).

[5] Frequently Asked Guide Horse Foundation Questions, The Guide Horse Foundation,http://www.guidehorse.org/faq_GHF.htm (last visited Sept. 5, 2011).

[6] 28 C.F.R. § 35.136 (2010).

[7] Rebecca Skloot, Creature Comforts, N.Y. Times, December 31, 2008,http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/magazine/04Creatures-t.html?pagewanted=1

[8] Eugenia Firth, The Guide Horse Foundation: Joke or Jeopardy?, The Braille Monitor, April 2001, http://www.nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/bm/bm01/bm0104/bm010404.htm

[9] Lyn Jacobs, Get the real facts!, GuideHorseNo.com,http://www.guidehorseno.com/article1.html (last visited Sept. 5, 2011).

[10] 28 C.F.R. § 35.136 (2010)

[11] Id.

[12] Robert L. Adair, Note, Monkeys and Horses and Ferrets… Oh My! Non-Traditional Service Animals Under the ADA, 37 N. Ky. L. Rev. 415 (2010).

[13] The Seeing Eye has been training dogs since 1929. Our Mission & History, The Seeing Eyehttp://www.seeingeye.org/aboutUs/default.aspx?M_ID=88 (last visited Sept. 5, 2011).

[14] The appropriate response to concerns about pets being claimed as “service animals” is to punish fraud, not a species ban. Skloot, supra note vii.

[15] Id.

[16] 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.

Equine Abuse and Neglect Educational Program in Kentucky

By: Katie Shoultz, Staff Member

In Kentucky, an educational program designed to help law enforcement officials detect equine abuse and neglect is being conducted by Speak Up For Horses. Speak Up for Horses is a non-profit organization that came into existence in 2006. Its primary mission is "to educate the public on the plight caused by an unknowing public, by inadequate
horse welfare laws, and by the woeful enforcement of existing laws at the federal, state, and local levels." Speak Up For Horses, http://speakupforhorses.org/about.lasso (last visited Mar. 3, 2010). The program, although primarily geared towards law enforcement and elected officials, is open to the public in an effort to encourage awareness and action. As part of the program, the Henneke Horse Body Condition Scoring System is taught as a means by which an official can decide whether intervention is necessary. This system is used throughout the country and provides one of the more uniform methods of determining horse abuse and neglect. The scoring system rates a horse from one to nine in terms of body fat and is viewed by many as an objective method. Equine Protection Network, Henneke Body Condition Scoring Chart, http://www.equineprotectionnetwork.com/cruelty/henneke.htm (last visited Mar. 3, 2010). It is also accepted by courts when such cases are litigated. Id.

Another aspect of the program is the discussion of animal cruelty law in Kentucky. Jared Nelson, Horse Abuse Case Prompts Training, The Times Leader Online, June 14, 2009, http://speakupforhorses.org/timesLeader.pdf. Kentucky law provides, in part, that a person is guilty of animal cruelty to animals in the second degree when though intentional or wanton behavior, a four-legged animal is subject to beating, mutilation, torture, torment or a failure to provide adequate food, drink, space, or health care. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 525.130(1)(a) (2009).

Because the law does not criminalize negligent behavior, this program is particularly helpful in instances where the abuse or neglect stems from lack of knowledge as to how to properly care for horses. Of course, in instances where the behavior is intentional or wanton, the program also equips those most often called to the scene with useful methods of ascertaining the situation, which can eliminate confusion and prompt greater enforcement of the anti-cruelty provisions.

Study to be Conducted on the Impact of Horses on the Environment

By: Katherine Huddleston, Staff Member

The United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA") has begun a five-year educational project entitled, "Environmental Impact of Equine Operations." Natalie Voss, Environmental Impact Study to Include UK Faculty Member, THEHORSE.COM, Jan. 13, 2010, http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=15628. While the equine industry has a long and rich history, very little is known about the potential its environmental impact. Id. This project was initiated by Michael Westendorf, PhD, of Rutgers University and proposes to combine the efforts of "Cooperative Extension agents and university faculty" from 12 states. Currently the states being studied include: Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Alabama, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Vermont. Id. Kentucky joined this list just last week when the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky announced that assistant director, Jill Stowe, PhD, would take part in the project. Id.

Participants will soon begin research; the results of which they hope to circulate widely at the close of the five-year term. Id. Potential research topics include "the effects of manure and fertilizer runoff on soil and groundwater," which has been shown to affect water environments, as well as how horses' diets and medications can affect "life in the soil and water." Id. With the "Go Green" movement taking hold across the country, these researchers are hoping to find the best balance between "the safety of the horse and … the well-being of the environment," says Stowe. Id.

The results of the studies will likely affect the industry both here in Kentucky and nationwide. While the overall impact of the equine industry on the environment is likely very slight in comparison to the cattle and other large livestock industries, the project will hopefully find concrete and manageable ways in which the industry can join in the fight for a more environmentally friendly society. Id.