Notice to Industry 1: Horse Importer Responsibilities

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Introduction

The purpose of this document is for importing agents and their staff and contractors involved with the import of live horses from all approved countries to be aware of their responsibilities and their obligation to comply with these requirements. This document excludes horse imports from New Zealand and New Caledonia.

This document is provided for information only. To the extent that this document is inconsistent with any import permit, direction, industry notice or authorisation to enter a quarantine facility, the terms and conditions of the import permit, direction, industry notice or authorisation to enter a quarantine facility take precedence and will apply. Failure to comply with a condition of an import permit, direction, industry notice or authorisation to enter a quarantine facility may constitute an offence.

Background

Each year, hundreds of live horses are imported into Australia. Each consignment may pose a biosecurity risk from animal diseases such as equine influenza (EI), equine viral arteritis, contagious equine metritis, piroplasmosis, surra and Japanese encephalitis. Additionally, the import of horses presents a plant biosecurity risk due to the potential for weed seeds to be present in the air stalls, equipment and animal faeces.

The import of live horses is regulated by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the department). The department has developed conditions for the import of horses to ensure that any potential biosecurity risks can be managed. Strict pre-export quarantine (PEQ) and post arrival quarantine (PAQ) requirements apply to imported horses, and all people and goods that come into contact with imported horses.

Importers of live horses have primary responsibility for ensuring that, wherever possible, the biosecurity risks of imported horses are managed prior to the horse entering Australia. Importers must ensure that all pre-export and certification requirements of the import permit conditions have been met before each horse is loaded for import into Australia.

All horses imported from high risk countries must undergo a period of at least 14 days PAQ either at the department’s Post Entry Quarantine facility at Mickleham in Victoria or at an Approved Arrangement (AA) site.

The primary disease of concern when the horses arrive in Australia is EI. This disease can be transmitted via an infected horse, either directly or via people or equipment in contact with an infected horse. The EI virus can be inactivated in a variety of ways, including by using soaps, detergents, acids and oxidising agents (such as Virkon).

All people in close proximity to imported horses on arrival in Australia and during their PAQ period have the potential to transmit EI virus, even if they have had minimal contact with the animals. Additionally, equipment used in the feeding, handling and treatment of the horses on arrival in Australia and in PAQ also carries a risk of transmitting EI. The Biosecurity Act 2015 provides biosecurity officers with the authority to give directions to a person who may have been exposed to a disease or pest such as by contact with goods that are subject to biosecurity control (i.e. imported horses and horse equipment), this may include taking appropriate decontamination measures.

In the event that circumstances or requirements fall outside the routine documented procedures, importers and their agents must comply with all instructions given by a biosecurity officer.

Preparatory requirements

Importers are required to:

  • Make a booking for the consignment of horses with the Mickleham horse compound manager (or delegate) or as per the relevant approved procedure for the AA site.
  • Confirm horse intake dates with the horse compound manager (or delegate) or AA site manager.
  • Apply for an import permit for the horses.
  • Read, understand and meet all requirements in each import permit issued.
  • Advise the horse compound manager (or delegate) of the number of grooms attending the consignment and the name of the head groom.
  • Within 24 hours of arrival of the horses at the Mickleham quarantine facility, provide a written schedule of expected shifts for grooms looking after the horses at each horse compound to the horse compound manager (or delegate)
  • Notify the horse compound manager (or delegate) at least 24 hours in advance of routine changes to the schedule of groom shifts. Emergency changes will need to be cleared by the duty manager

Note: It is the importer’s responsibility to ensure that owners are aware of the risks associated with the importation of horses into Australia. All care for the horses undertaking PAQ must be carried out in the horse compound and in accordance with the department’s required biosecurity arrangements. Horses in PAQ will NOT be permitted to leave the horse compound or AA site for treatment, surgery or any other reason. Where necessary, the importer should make arrangements for treatment of horses within each horse compound or AA site to ensure the welfare and survival of the horses.

Note: Only male horses may undergo quarantine at the Mickleham PAQ facility when the annual consignment of shuttle stallions is in residence. Shuttle stallions are usually imported between June-August annually. No female equids (fillies, mares, jennies etc.) are permitted onsite during this time. This is to minimise disruption and potential injuries to the shuttle stallions and their handlers. Shuttle stallions are extremely valuable and have unique management requirements. Importers are advised to liaise closely with the horse compound manager to manage and schedule importation of female horses around the shuttle stallion consignments.

Pre-export quarantine responsibilities

Importers are required to:

  • Ensure horses undergo PEQ at facilities approved by the department and the official government veterinarian of the country of export.
  • Ensure that all pre-export conditions detailed on the import permit are met.
  • Provide complete certification to the official veterinarian in the country of export for inspection prior to loading for export to Australia. This must include but is not limited to evidence that each horse has:
    • been vaccinated in accordance with the requirements for veterinary certification; and
    • tested with negative results by PCR for equine influenza as per the import permit conditions.

Note: Foals under six months of age are exempt from EI vaccination, but they must be under six months of age by the conclusion of the PEQ period and prior to the date of export.

  • Ensure that horse transport vehicles and containers for transport of horses from the premises to the port of export are cleaned and disinfected.
  • Appoint a head groom for each consignment to be responsible for transporting the certification to Australia.
  • Ensure that hay or straw bedding is not used during transport.
  • Transport the horse(s) to Australia by a route approved by the department, and which is detailed on the import permit.
  • Ensure that the compartment of the aircraft or vessel to be occupied by the horse and all removable equipment, penning and containers including loading ramps is clean and disinfected prior to loading.

Pre-arrival responsibilities

Importers are required to:

  • Notify the department’s regional horse coordinator of impending consignments at least 3 business days prior to arrival. Notification must include the following information:
    • contact number for the importer
    • import permit number
    • flight number
    • air way bill number
    • estimated time of arrival (and subsequently confirm time of arrival (or any changes to schedule) by phone to the horse coordinator)
    • list of horses to be imported
    • names of travelling grooms/veterinarians and the name of the head groom
    • company providing the transport of the horses to the quarantine facility.

Note: Form: Notice of intent to import live horses (NOI)(0.2)is available from the department's website for this purpose.

Note:The regional horse coordinator will use this information to organise the correct number of biosecurity officers to be present for the arrival of the flight.

  • Submit to the department sufficient evidence to verify the existence of veterinary certification and compliance with the import conditions up to the time the horse arrives at the airport of departure. This evidence must be submitted at least 3 working days before the scheduled departure date. This evidence must include:
    • dates and results of all required tests and treatments
    • dates of all required vaccinations
    • details of any additional treatments the horse is on
    • a statement that the official health certification for the horses will match the import conditions and any associated certificate of equivalence.
  • Ensure the horses are not loaded for export before written compliance advice is obtained from the department prior to uplift.
  • Ensure that the commercial entries are processed in a timely manner (a minimum of 24 hours prior to the arrival of each flight).
  • Ensure that all personnel and contractors that will be airside have the appropriate approval/passes.
  • Arrange for the transport of the horses from the first point of entry (airport) to the quarantine facility and horse compound in a manner that complies with animal welfare and WH&S requirements.
  • Provide a list of people nominated to enter the compound to the horse compound manager (or delegate) by completing and signing Form: Record of persons authorised to attend to horses in the Mickleham Post Entry Quarantine horse compound during the post arrival quarantine period(3.9)for each horse transport driver, groom, veterinarian and farrier (or use the relevant authorisation form for the AA site).

Note: Only importer nominated people with a genuine reason to attend to horses during PAQ will be authorised to enter the compound.

  • For the Mickleham quarantine facility, provide a stall and yard plan to the horse compound manager (or delegate).
  • Liaise with the horse compound manager (or delegate) to arrange access for delivery of feed, bedding and other equipment to the horse compound prior to the arrival of the horses.
  • Liaise with the horse compound manager (or delegate) to arrange induction and other training for personnel or contractors that will require entry to the horse compounds.
  • Advise the horse compound manager (or delegate) if there are any specific treatments, imported feeds or supplements to be used during the intake.

On-arrival responsibilities

When horses arrive at the airport, importers are required to:

Post-arrival quarantine responsibilities

During PAQ, importers are required to:

  • Organise for a private veterinarian (authorised by the department) to undertake the initial health inspection, required blood sampling and nasopharyngeal swabs (nasal swabs for foals under six months of age) for EI either on arrival at PAQ or within 24 hours.

Note: The only instance where horses do not require the nasopharyngeal swab within 24 hours of arrival into the PAQ facility is when the consignment arrives from a single PEQ facility and will complete the entire PAQ period as a single group without being combined with another consignment.

  • Organise for a private veterinarian (authorised by the department) to repeat the health inspection and nasopharyngeal swabs (nasal swabs for foals under six months of age) for EI:
    • four to six days after commencement of PAQ; and
    • within four days of release from PAQ.
  • Organise for a private veterinarian (authorised by the department) to attend to any horses needing veterinary attention, such as sick or injured horses, in PAQ.
  • Ensure all department directions are complied with. This may include the clipping of horses’ hair or other procedures to enable the effective examination/inspection of the horses.
  • Ensure that any personnel wishing to use the horse walker within each compound obtain approval from the department and importer prior to use.
  • Ensure that the department is notified if staff use the horse crush, and a reason is provided for use of the equipment.

Note: The department does not need to be notified if the scales have been used.

  • Ensure there is an adequate supply of feed, medicines and any equipment required for PAQ in each horse compound.
  • Ensure that all equipment used in the feeding, handling and treatment of the horses in PAQ is new, or cleaned and disinfected before use.
  • Ensure that all equipment is only used in that horse compound for the duration of the PAQ, unless otherwise approved by the department.
  • Ensure that all equipment remains in the horse compound until release of the horses. If permitted by the department, equipment can be removed only after being disinfected to the satisfaction of the department.
  • Ensure all feed, bedding and equipment, including used water drums, is removed from each horse compound at the completion of PAQ.
  • Ensure that any contractors employed by the importer including grooms, veterinarians and farriers are aware of the need to comply with department requirements in the PAQ. Refer any relevant personnel and contractors to the following documents for more information:
  • These documents are available on the department’s website.
  • Organise the transport of the horses from each horse compound following completion of quarantine and release of the horses.
  • Organise for each horse compound to be cleaned to the satisfaction of the department following release of the horses.
  • Following release of the horses, organise for the return of clothing, equipment or other personal items to the owners.

 

Other responsibilities

The importer is responsible for meeting all department costs associated with the import of horses including:

  • the costs associated with PEQ facility assessment
  • import permit applications and permit variations
  • inspections
  • document assessment
  • routine and additional testing (if required)
  • fees for use of the horse compound for PAQ.

Personal biosecurity requirements

Personnel present at the airport corral for the arrival of horses and not accompanying horses to the horse compound are required to:

  • Wear dedicated clothing (e.g. material or disposable overalls) in the corral.
  • Undertake a complete head to toe, 3 minute shower before leaving the corral (including washing hair and cleaning under fingernails).
  • Surrender dedicated clothing for laundering and footwear for cleaning and disinfection (if required) to a biosecurity officer.
  • Change into new/clean clothing and footwear.

Personnel present at the airport for the arrival of horses and accompanying horses to the horse compound are required to:

  • Travel to the horse compound in the horse transport vehicle in the designated groom compartment (not the horse transport driver’s cabin).
  • Wear dedicated clothing (including underwear and socks) and footwear in the horse compound. This clothing and footwear must remain in the horse compound until completion of PAQ.
  • Undertake a complete head to toe, 3 minute shower (including washing hair and cleaning under fingernails).
  • Change into clean clothing (including underwear and socks) and footwear immediately before leaving the horse compound.

Personnel attending the horse compound are required to:

  • Wear dedicated clothing (including underwear and socks) and footwear in the horse compound. This clothing and footwear must remain in the horse compound until completion of PAQ.
  • Undertake a complete head to toe, 3 minute shower before leaving the horse compound (including washing hair and cleaning under fingernails).
  • Change into clean clothing (including underwear and socks) and footwear immediately before leaving the horse compound.

Any personal items (mobile phones, tablets, paperwork, eyeglasses, simple jewellery etc.) used on site at the corral or in the horse compound must either:

  • Remain in the horse compound until the end of PAQ OR
  • Be decontaminated prior to leaving the corral or horse compound by wiping down the equipment with alcohol wipes OR
  • For simple jewellery, it may be permitted to enter and leave the horse compound if it can be adequately disinfected.

Note: Veterinarians, grooms and other personnel are permitted to move from one horse compound to the other but must follow all personnel and equipment decontamination procedures when leaving each compound.

Non-compliance with these conditions

Failure to comply with the above conditions may constitute an offence under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

Related material

Last reviewed: 30 April 2020
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