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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Quarantine in New York

The US Department of Agriculture's quarantine center at Newburgh, New York is about an hour's drive north of New York City. You might see any animal on the planet at this important place. The USDA isolates and inspects animals for agriculture, zoos, and pets. Bird flu is in the news this week, and this center processed over 1000 exotic birds last year! But horses, by far, are the most popular animals to pass through Newburgh. In 2003, 5000 horses passed through Newburgh.Most were imported from European countries.

Whenever an animal-carrying international plane lands at New York's JFK or LaGuardia airports, or at nearby Newark, New Jersey, a USDA inspecting veterinarian boards the plane and makes a routine check to identify the animals. They are then transported by truck to Newburgh.

What follows is lots of paperwork, as identity checks continue and health records are scrutinized. Stallions are especially carefully checked, since they can be carriers of Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA) and Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM), two venereal diseases that the USDA is trying to control.

Some countries in Europe have much more lax attitudes toward EVA, and it is often a controversial topic among international veterinarians. The UK and USA are very strict about stallions being tested. All the Lipizzans tested free of EVA in Europe before they left.

Once the horses arrive at Newburgh, they are moved into barns that are very far apart. Only about 125 horses at a time can be housed at the facility, so bringing in 30 stallions at once was an unusual order. There is about 100 feet of space between the barns and the staff is very careful about going from barn to barn. They wear special clothing and disinfect their feet before entering buildings.

It doesn't always go so smoothly for horses entering the USA. If a sick horse is in a shipment, it can hold up all the horses for a long time, until they are all determined to be healthy. To make matters more complicated, the regulations differ among countries, because of the geographic distribution of diseases.

Horses from countries that have African horse sickness are subject to the most strict regulations.

Once the Lipizzans leave Newburgh, they will still technically be "quarantined". They will not come into contact with other horses and their health will be carefully monitored.

To learn more about quarantine regulations and the USDA, visit the APHIS web site.


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