National cutting horse events this spring in Utah and California resulted in a wave of equine herpesvirus-1 strain across the country. Outbreaks of the highly infectious disease were a consequence of exposures at the shows and subsequent contact with horses returning from the events.
More than 1,500 horses on 242 premises were reportedly exposed, reports New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher. Thirteen horses either died or were euthanized. Twenty-eight cases of EHV-1 infection and 26 cases of a related illness were confirmed.
"Incidents like this make it painfully clear how quickly a disease outbreak can spread among horses and how tragic the consequences can be," says Fisher. Laws regarding the movement of horses within states, the importation of horses from one state to another and on the sale of horses prevents, as much as possible, the outbreak of serious, contagious diseases.
"These laws are for the protection of horses. But protections designed to ensure a safe outcome are no protection at all if they are not used or enforced," he adds.
In New Jersey, anyone transporting horses, for sale or other purpose, even if it is from one point in the state to another, must have a negative Coggins test. In addition, anyone bringing a horse in from outside the state for sale must have the negative Coggins test plus a certificate of veterinary inspection. Together, they would cost those bringing horses into New Jersey for sale less than $100 per horse.
This protection is relatively small in cost when compared to the hundreds or thousands of dollars it costs to buy and keep a horse. It also helps greatly in avoiding the costs, both financial and emotional, of quarantining, treating, or worse yet euthanizing horses whose health could have otherwise been protected.
Animals excluded from the rules include: Horses imported for immediate slaughter, for research or if the horse is to be immediately returned to its home state.