Feedback sought on Australia’s proposed horse traceability system

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Proposed rules outline the obligations of industry participants around property registration, microchip use for certain sectors, movement records and data management.
Image by Engelbert Mercelis

An online survey in Australia is seeking feedback on the proposed rules that will apply as the country moves toward a national horse traceability system.

Work on the traceability initiative is being undertaken by the National Horse Traceability Working Group (NHTWG), a non-statutory committee created by state racing and agriculture ministers.

The committee has reached the point where it is consulting on rules that will apply under the system, which will cover horses, donkeys and mules in Australia.

The committee wants industry feedback on the structure that will underpin the horse traceability system, designed to enable authorities to act swiftly in biosecurity incidents or emergency animal disease outbreaks.

It is expected that the final rules will allow horses of interest to be traced within 24 hours to properties where they have resided or visited. In addition, it should allow for horses co-residing with them, or who have been in contact with horses of interest, to be located within a similar time frame.

Details of horse movements over the preceding six months will be required to be available for review.

The business rules that have been proposed outline the obligations of industry participants relating to property registration, microchip application (where mandated by a sector of the industry), movement records and associated data management.

The Australian horse community is largely unregulated in relation to traceability and any changes to requirements will be new, outside the Thoroughbred and Standardbred industries.

With this in mind, the committee is working to establish a base-level system as a starting point, which will achieve adequate traceability to address biosecurity challenges. In time, such a system could incorporate greater complexity.

An effective animal traceability system incorporates identification information such as brands, markings and microchips that can link an animal to a responsible person and a location.

These components, when linked together, allow authorities to track an animal or group of animals to their properties of residence and to quickly locate associated animals to assist with management of biosecurity challenges.

A base-level system does not include mandatory microchipping. The committee proposes to maintain current requirements, under which it will be mandatory only where required by specific racing or equestrian authorities.

The committee proposes a system under the existing framework, which includes Property Identification Codes (PIC).

In most Australian jurisdictions, a PIC is required for properties where horses live. The committee is looking to refresh the PIC system, introduce uniform national PIC rules, and enable enforcement under legislation.

The scheme would require base level movement information to be recorded by all sectors of the horse industry.

The proposed business rules will apply to all horses, donkeys and mules, affecting horse owners and carers, transporters, sales agents, abattoir operators, racing authorities and agricultural show and equestrian event organisers.

A movement record will be required when a horse is moving to another property (a location with a different PIC) where it will then reside. Movement records are not required where a horse is being temporarily moved to be exercised, attending an equestrian event or show where a record of its attendance is kept by the event organisers, or to receive veterinary treatment, provided the horse will return directly to its home.

A movement record must be created with 24 hours of a movement, or within 24 hours of a horse being processed at an abattoir or knackery.

The core details that will need to be recorded and kept are:

  • Details regarding the horse/s that were moved;
  • PIC or address of the property from which the horse/s were dispatched;
  • PIC or address of the property to which the horse/s were taken;
  • The date of the movement; and
  • The name and contact details of the person creating the record.

Industry participants required to create and keep movement records include owners and carers; transporters; selling agents (including online selling platforms that are contracted to sell horses); processors; and organisers of race meetings, agricultural shows and equestrian events.

Studs will be responsible for creating and keeping records of when they receive horses and when horses leave.

Movement records must be kept a minimum of six months, and must be able to be retrieved by the person who generated it at the request of an authorised officer specifically for biosecurity or compliance monitoring purposes.

The record can be stored in a retrievable electronic format or hard copy if the use of an electronic format is not feasible.

The committee seeks feedback from the horse industry on what the rules, if implemented, will mean for them. Feedback via the online survey will open be until May 25. Any personal information provided will be kept confidential. It takes 10-15 minutes to complete.

The committee will consider the feedback on the rules. Once finalised, they will form one component of a suite of recommendations to agriculture ministers in mid-2022 for their consideration.

The survey can be found here.

The committee’s full consultation document on the national traceability system can be downloaded here

Find out more about the working group here

 

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