A collection of equine groups and animal health officials unveiled the National Equine Health Plan in an effort to stem costly disease outbreaks.
“The horse industry is unique because horses are transported with more frequency than other livestock,” says Julie Broadway, president of the American Horse Council (AHC). “We have seen firsthand how disease outbreaks cost the industry millions of dollars for the care of sick horses, implementation of biosecurity and lost revenue in the form of cancelled or restricted commercial equine activities such as horse shows.”
The goals of the National Equine Health Plan (NEHP) are to protect the health and welfare of the U.S. equine population, facilitate the continued interstate and international movement of horses and their products, ensure the availability of regulatory services, and protect the economic continuity of business in the equine industry. The plan was developed by the AHC, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and state animal health officials.
“Back in 2013, the industry felt it was time to step up and address the issue of the handling of disease outbreaks and the dissemination of information surrounding the outbreaks,” Broadway says. “This gave way to the creation of the NEHP that will outline the issues surrounding the prevention, diagnosis and control of diseases and the responsibilities and roles of the federal and state authorities and the industry.”
The NEHP also is a roadmap for coordinating horse owners and industry organizations with veterinarians and state and federal animal health officials to prevent, recognize, control and respond to diseases and environmental disasters. The plan facilitates horse industry preparedness, effective rapid communication and owner education, which make up the foundation for preventing diseases and disease spread. The document provides links to information and resources, including a list of “Roles and Responsibilities” for all stakeholders in the industry.
“The Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC) is a key element of the NEHP and provides critical communication of information during disease outbreaks,” says Dr. Nat White, director of the EDCC. “Additionally, equinediseasecc.org provides information about diseases, vaccination, biosecurity, state health regulations, state animal health official contact information and links to USDA-APHIS veterinary services. By integrating the roles of regulatory agencies with industry stakeholders, equine health and welfare are improved.”