Notice of Emergency Rule

Division of Animal Industry
5CER09-1: Temporary Restrictions on Importation of Horses from Texas
SPECIFIC REASONS FOR FINDING AN IMMEDIATE DANGER TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY OR WELFARE: On October 20, 2009, the Texas Animal Health Commission announced that a Texas horse exhibiting clinical signs of Equine Piroplasmosis (EP) had been diagnosed with the disease. In subsequent testing, in multiple counties in South Texas, over 280 horses have been determined to be positive for the disease.
EP is considered a foreign animal disease, not endemic to the United States. EP is a blood-borne parasitic disease primarily transmitted between horses by ticks or contaminated needles and is not directly contagious from one horse to another. Currently, EP is considered an untreatable disease and under state and federal agreement, all horses testing positive for EP must be quarantined for life or be euthanized. Ticks are the natural method of transmission of EP and those tick species which are known to be efficient at transmitting the EP organism are not believed to exist in Florida. If the tick vectors, detected in Texas, become established in Florida and facilitate the spread of EP among Florida’s 500,000 horses, the impact would be devastating.
Acutely affected horses can have depression, fever, anemia (decreased red blood cells) jaundiced (yellow) mucous membranes and low platelet counts and can die from the disease. In its milder form, EP can also cause horses to have roughened hair coats, constipation, colic, generalized weakness and lack of appetite. Some horses become chronic carriers of the disease showing little clinical signs but having the ability to transmit the disease to other horses via ticks. Treatment of infected horses has not been shown to be effective in eliminating the organism (Theileria equi) and infected horses must remain under quarantine.
In an EP incident in Florida in 2008-2009 the Department spent over 4,800 hours managing the disease and testing more than 200 horses. During the incident the owners of 20 positive horses elected to euthanize their animals. Additional industry losses were incurred as many horses were not imported into Florida during the peak winter show season and Canada required testing on Florida horses. While the disease investigation was costly, the impact was much less than could have been the case if a tick vector was present to spread the disease. Currently, it costs Texas more than $14.0 million dollars a year in its efforts to eradicate a tick which transmits an EP like disease in cattle.
If EP infected horses or a species of tick efficient at transmitting the disease were established in the state countless Florida horses would have to be euthanized or quarantined for life. In addition, many states and countries would not allow importation of Florida’s horses, potentially ruining the equine industry which produces goods and services of over $3.0 billion per year.
REASON FOR CONCLUDING THAT THE PROCEDURE IS FAIR UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES: This rule is fair and justified because it takes only the necessary actions to protect the public health, safety, and welfare by preventing the introduction and spread of this dangerous and transmissible disease and its vectors. The rule requires that horses intended for movement to Florida from Texas must be inspected and found free of ticks, be treated with a registered pesticide, and test negative for Equine Piroplasmosis. The rule also provides an exemption for horses that leave the state destined for Texas, but return to the state within 30 days. The Department is undertaking an aggressive campaign to notify the public about the implementation of this rule. The Department is currently in the process of amending Chapter 5C-3, F.A.C., through formal rulemaking in an effort to incorporate similar provisions for a more permanent solution.
SUMMARY: This rule places restrictions upon the importation of horses from Texas to ensure they are not infected with Equine Piroplasmosis (T. equi) or infested with tick vectors capable of transmitting this disease to other horses in Florida. The requirements in this rule are in addition to the import requirements set forth in Chapter 5C-3, Florida Administrative Code.
THE PERSON TO BE CONTACTED REGARDING THE EMERGENCY RULE IS: Dr. Thomas J. Holt, State Veterinarian, Director, Division of Animal Industry, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 407 S. Calhoun St., Rm. 330, Mayo Bldg., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0800, phone (850)410-0900


5CER09-1 Temporary Restrictions on Importation of Horses from Texas.

(1) Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (OCVI). Notwithstanding paragraph 5C-3.002(1)(c), F.A.C., the inspection date of the Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (OCVI) that must accompany horse(s) imported into or through the State of Florida must be within 14 days prior to entry into the state and must include the following statement: “All animals identified on this certificate have not been on a premises found positive for T. equi or under quarantine within the past 30 days, have been inspected and found free of ticks, and have been thoroughly treated with an approved acaricide labeled for use in horses within 14 days of entry.”

(2) Testing. All horses identified on the OCVI must be tested negative for T. equi via the CELISA test, performed at the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Veterinary Services Laboratories (USDA-APHIS-NVSL) or other laboratory authorized by the USDA-APHIS-NVSL. The blood sample for the test must be been taken within 30 days prior to entry into Florida. The result and accession number must be listed on the OCVI.

(3) Tick Vectors. All horses identified on the OCVI must be examined for, and found free of, ticks and must be thoroughly treated for ticks with an United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered acaricide labeled for use in horses.

(4) Exemption. Horses from Florida consigned to Texas that are returned to Florida within 30 days of the issuance of the Florida OCVI are exempt from the requirements of this rule.

Rulemaking Authority 570.07(21), (23), 585.08(2)(a) FS. Law Implemented 585.08(1), 585.145 FS. History–New 11-18-09.

EFFECTIVE DATE: November 18, 2009