The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Horse Council (AHC) conducted a workshop during the 2010 AHC’s National Issues Forum to discuss how USDA, state authorities, and the industry could best address emerging and infectious equine diseases in the U.S. The goal of implementing a proactive and coordinated approach to disease outbreaks is to mitigate the health, welfare, and economic implications infectious diseases have on U.S. horses and the industry as a whole.
Following the June meeting, a pre-planning committee, consisting of USDA, AHC, and State animal health officials, began drafting what is now called the National Equine Health Plan (NEHP) to follow-up on the recommendations from the June workshop. A broad representation of federal agency personnel, state animal health officials, and industry representatives will eventually participate in defining and developing the NEHP once a framework document is drafted.
The AHC is represented on the NEHP pre-planning committee along with a number of industry experts. AHC staff has relied heavily on these experts’ insights and direction in defining the industry’s role throughout the pre-planning process.
The NEHP will help educate the industry about the broad hazards of equine diseases, how to prepare for outbreaks and efficiently respond to an outbreak. “In the long run, the benefits of this effort may be less about a specific disease and more about establishing a pro-active process to address, respond to, and mitigate disease implications in order to protect the welfare of U.S horses and the economic viability of the industry,” said AHC president Jay Hickey.
The NEHP will create a roadmap for individuals, associations, events and authorities to work together to enhance industry outreach and education in order to explain the importance and hazards of a disease outbreak.
Sustained education across the industry is imperative to laying a foundation for implementing any industry-supported and effective biosecurity plan that will allow events to prepare for, and respond to, equine disease outbreaks in conjunction with federal and state authorities.
AHC submitted a resolution to United States Animal Health Association – Infectious Diseases of Horses Committee (USAHA-IDOHC) in November 2010 which called for USDA to support the NEHP framework document and pre-planning process. The resolution was approved by the IDOHC and passed by the USAHA board. “It was very encouraging to have unanimous support for the NEHP from so many different state and federal animal health representatives,” said Dudley Hoskins, Director of Health and Regulatory Affairs for the AHC.