The number of equine animals or 'equidae' in an enlarged European Union is small, probably not many more than 6 millions, compared to hundreds of million of other livestock. To keep, breed and use equidae, and first and foremost horses, has largely remained labour intensive, thus constituting a source of income for a part of the farming community.
However, equidae and in particular horses are very mobile compared to other livestock, and in many cases they represent as an individual an enormous economic and emotional value. The reoccurrence of major equine infectious diseases which, if they had ever occurred, were successfully eradicated in Member States would seriously compromise the rational development of equidae production and intra-Union trade in such animals.
Definition and general animal health conditions
The animal health conditions governing the movement of equidae (equine animals) between Member States and their importation from third countries are laid down in Council Directive 2009/156/EC.
This Directive first of all provides the following definitions:
Equine animals or equidae: odd-toed ungulates, whether wild or domesticated, i.e. horses, donkeys, including Asian wild asses, zebras and their crossings.
Categories of equidae:
registered equidae, which are registered in studbooks established in accordance with Council Directive 90/427/EEC laying down the zootechnical and genealogical conditions governing intra-Union trade in equidae, or with international organisations managing competitions,
equidae for slaughter, which are destined to be transported to a slaughterhouse, and
equidae for breeding and production, which are all the other equidae not defined as registered equidae or equidae for slaughter.
Directive 2009/156/EEC provides for the obligation of keepers to notify to the authorities any suspect of eight specified diseases. Equidae moving on the territory of a Member State or traded between Member States must come from areas free of African horse sickness and premises free of major equine diseases, such as glanders and dourine, but also equine infectious anaemia and any type of equine encephalomyelitis.
As of 1 July 2009, equidae must be identified in accordance with Commission Regulation (EC) No 504/2008.
In intra-Union trade non-registered equidae must be accompanied by a veterinary certificate and. registered equidae by the attestation which does not specify the destination of the movement, thus allowing, for example, participation in consecutive competitions at different places during the 10 days period of validity of the certificate.
Before a third country or part of it is authorised to export horses into the EU, the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) carries out a mission to verify that the animal health guarantees in regard to equidae in a third country, as provided for in Directive 2009/156/EC, are properly fulfilled.
Third country or region thereof may only export equidae into the EU, if it is added, based on the principles contained in Council Directive 2009/156/EEC and on the results of the FVO mission, to the list of third countries or regions thereof authorised for the export of live equidae their semen, ova and embryos. The list is laid down in Commission Decision 2004/211/EC specifying the sanitary group to which the exporting country or region thereof is assigned in order to use the established health certificates.
Imports may be of three different types and the animal health conditions and the veterinary certification are laid down as follows:
(i) temporary admission for less than 90 days of registered horses, (Decision 92/260/EEC)
(ii) re-entry of registered horses for racing, competition and cultural events after temporary export, as a rule 30 days, to approved third countries, (Decision 93/195/EEC)
(iii) imports of:
- equidae for slaughter, respectively with or without passing through a marshalling centre (Decision 93/196/EEC), and
- registered equidae and equidae for breeding and production (Decision 93/197/EEC ).
The import conditions are based on country's freedom from African horse sickness and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis, glanders and dourine. In the case of vesicular stomatitis and equine viral arteritis country-freedom may be compensated by absence of disease on the holding of origin and testing during isolation.
Depending on the prevailing risks of disease introduction through imports, the third countries approved for export are assigned to sanitary groups for each of which additional residence, quarantine, test and vaccination requirements are specified. For example, countries that had a history of African horse sickness use the same model certificate and are in a distinct sanitary group to countries which are at risk of Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis.
Live animals entering the European Union are inspected at a Border Inspection Post (BIP) (as listed in Commission Decision 2009/821/EC of 28 September 2009 where Member States' official veterinarians ensure they fulfil all the requirements provided for in the EU legislation. (Council Directive 91/496/EEC of 15 July 1991 lays down the principles governing the organisation of veterinary checks on animals entering the EU from third countries).
Where equidae transit the European Union on their way from one third country to another, Commission Decision 2010/57/EU lays down the animal health conditions and veterinary certification, which are based on the respective requirements for temporary admission
A summary providing ' General guidance for third country authorities on procedures to be followed when importing live animals and animal products into the EU' can be found [ HERE] .