Horses travel - do diseases too?


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Serious equine diseases have spread alarmingly in Europe in recent years, and there is a growing risk of their arriving in Finland. Horses are imported into Finland also from areas outside Europe where information on the incidence of diseases is often less comprehensive. In addition to horse imports, the spread of infectious diseases in Finland is increased by the active international horse-racing scene and other equestrian events. To safeguard the health of Finnish horses, it is increasingly important for the importer to ensure that the animal fulfils the import requirements.

Up to now, Finland has remained free of diseases classified as dangerous to horses in our legislation, or that spread easily, although the risk of their spreading into Finland has increased due to increased movement of horses and changes in the disease situation. For example, equine infectious anemia has been found in Italy, France and Germany. Italy has also reported cases of West Nile virus and dourine. Horses are imported to Finland from all these countries.

Moreover, the possibility of rabies infection poses a risk to humans as well as horses. The last case of rabies in an imported horse was found in Finland in 2003. The West Nile fever can also infect people.

Importer bears great responsibility
In order to protect the health of humans and other animals, horse imports are subject to certain standards regarding animal disease. Compliance with these standards requires the importer to acquire certain information and familiarise himself with the issue in good time before the planned import. Equines to be imported must be accompanied by a certificate of health and identification documentation issued by an official veterinarian in the source country. The importer is obliged to inspect all imports immediately on arrival. If the documentation is incomplete or if the animal is suspected of spreading a contagious disease, the animals must be immediately isolated and the municipal veterinary surgeon notified without delay.

If the conditions attached to equine imports have not been complied with, the import is deemed to be illegal. This year, Evira has stepped up the control of illegal equine imports and instructed official veterinarians to take action if there are illegally imported horses in their area. An illegally imported horse must be isolated by decision of the official veterinarian until the test results on infectious diseases are ready. The owner of the horse is liable for the costs.

If there is cause to suspect that animals are illegally imported, the municipal veterinary surgeon or provincial veterinary officer must be notified. The buyer of the horse should also carry out checks to ensure that the animal being purchased is not a horse illegally imported into Finland.

Control of infectious diseases in support of equine husbandry
Evira and the principal operators in equine husbandry are jointly running the project Tarttuvien tautien hallinta hevostalouden tukena [Control of infectious diseases in support of equine husbandry] in 2012-2013. The project is supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and concerns the incidence of equine infectious diseases in Finland with the focus on current disease risks related to imports.

More on the subject:
Animals > Import and Export > EU member countries, Norway and Switzerland (Intra-community Trade)

For more information, please contact:
Jaana Vuolle, Senior Inspector, tel. +358 (0)40 489 3322

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