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While federal and state governments are developing a National Animal Identification System (NAIS), the program currently does not include horses. Following the identification of mad cow disease in Washington a year ago, Congress provided funds to develop a system for permanently identifying sheep, cattle and swine to quickly trace the movement and location of possibly contaminated animals. In recent developments, legislators in Louisiana and Wisconsin are already implementing a mandatory equine identification system.
Because the equine industry is different than other livestock industries, American Horse Council staffers organized the 30-member Equine Species Working Group to develop standards to complement the government identification system. While NAIS is accepting permanent and affixed forms of identification such as microchips, tattoos, eartags and freeze or hot branding, the future could include retinal scanning or instant DNA testing.
Although the obvious benefit of identifying horses is to prevent the spread of catastrophic diseases, other benefits would include the recovery of horses after a natural disaster or serving as protection against theft.
The group manager for the Wild Horse and Burro Program at the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., is attempting to provide new owners with a list of…