Traveling with Your Horse? Reduce the Red Tape

By Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA, Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian, SmartPak 
Courtesy of AAEP

Whether it’s a short distance or a long trip, you’ve got a lot to think about any time you haul your horse. Getting all the right tests done and paperwork filled out may seem like a lot of extra time and money. However, there are some very good reasons why these examinations and documents are required. In this article, you’ll find out what you need to travel and why.

What You Need 

There are three broad categories of travel: intrastate, interstate and international (the last is beyond the scope of this article). Depending on your reason for travel and your final destination, you may need the same kind of documentation for intrastate travel (travel within the state of origin) that is required for interstate travel (travel outside the state of origin).

For example, if you are trailering your horse to a show, more than likely the show officials will ask to see a copy of your horse’s negative Coggins test, the most commonly used means of finding antibody to the equine infectious anemia (EIA) virus. As of December 1, 2015, expect show management to also ask for proof of compliance with the USEF Equine Vaccination Rule GR845: At Federation licensed competitions, horses entering the grounds must be accompanied by documentation of Equine Influenza Virus and Equine Herpes Virus (Rhinopneumonitis) vaccinations within six months prior to entering the stables. If you are transporting a horse to an auction, the facility may require that each horse be accompanied by a health certificate, also known as a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI). These certificates, which attest that the horse exhibits no obvious signs of disease on the day of inspection and are signed by your veterinarian, are generally good for 30 days, although some are limited to just 10 days.

What changes when you want to travel with your horse outside your own state? Not only is a negative EIA test required for entry into all 50 states, it must be performed at an accredited laboratory (your veterinarian will know which laboratories are accredited). Your veterinarian will also be able to tell you if your destination state requires this test be performed within 12 months of entry, within 6 months (or less), or within the calendar year.

Also, with some exceptions that will be pointed out later, all states require that a health certificate accompany horses entering their borders. Some require that the horse’s body temperature the day of examination be recorded on the health certificate, others require specific statements about the current status of a specific disease, and a few even require proof of specific vaccinations or additional testing. While your veterinarian is obligated to submit the health certificate to the origin state veterinarian’s office prior to shipment, some states require that an approved copy of the health certificate be submitted to the destination state veterinarian’s office after entry.

Within the last few years, some states have begun requiring an additional document, the entry or import permit.  This is a free document that you or your veterinarian can obtain from the state of your final destination by phone and sometimes online. An entry permit is usually good for the life of your Certificate of Veterinary Inspection. A word of advice for both these documents: include every stop you will be making in the state to avoid any problems.

Horse owners in certain states have an alternative method of complying with interstate health requirements. Two different groups of states have formed reciprocal livestock health arrangements so that people who travel frequently with their horses between these neighboring states do not have to keep getting health certificates every 30 days. Ask your veterinarian if you live or are traveling to a state that accepts the Equine Interstate Event Permit (EIEP) or “equine passport.”

Finally, even if your horse doesn’t have a brand, he may still need to undergo a brand inspection to establish proof of ownership. Contact a state brand inspector through your state department of agriculture of state police if you live in a western state.  Frequent travelers should inquire about a Lifetime Brand Inspection Certificate, available in some states.

Why You Need It

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) accredits veterinarians to carry out these and other services. Local veterinarians work with their state veterinarian and the Area Veterinarian-in-Charge (AVIC) to protect the health and well being of both you and your horse by preventing, controlling, and eradicating animal disease. In recent years, state and federal animal regulations have protected the United States equine industry from vesicular stomatitis, screwworm, piroplasmosis and, most recently, West Nile Encephalitis. Recently the “Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate Final Rule” has added further methods of documenting horses moving across state lines.

Just because you do not travel internationally or even interstate with your horse doesn’t mean you are safe from the effects of foreign (or not-so-foreign) animal diseases. Even if your horse does not come into direct contact with a sick horse that has traveled extensively, once any horse shows signs of a reportable disease for that state, equine transportation from that location and sometimes even from that state may be shut down. On the Equine Disease Communication Center website, owners can sign up for alerts about outbreaks of diseases such as EHV-1 or Equine Herpes Virus – 1 and learn where quarantines are in place. Complying with our country’s disease prevention requirements helps keep our national equine industry healthy and active.

Finally, complying with animal transport requirements not only serves to protect your horse and the horses he or she comes into contact with, it also lays an excellent paper trail should there be any question of your horse’s disease status. Veterinary examinations, negative EIA test results, body temperature and vaccination records are all in one place for easy retrieval.