A Horse, Of Course - More on Equine Infectious Anemia
By Don Blazer

Several hundred healthy, wild, island horses of all ages have been put to death for being Coggins-positive. Each year round-ups are organized to do mass testing and branding, all to great expense - the greatest of which is the lives that are lost when any come up Coggins-positive.

Photos courtesy of Wild Horse Art Gallery, Shackleford Banks, NC

I call 'em like I see 'em.

So, I say anyone supporting our present EIA (equine infectious anemia) eradication program is lacking in normal intelligence or understanding, is slow-witted or dull.

Does that mean I'm calling state department of agriculture directors, state veterinarians and state legislators stupid? Of course not!

I do think they are lacking in understanding.

Let's look at some facts, then you decide.

Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is a viral disease, and it can be fatal. Most of the time it is not, and deaths from EIA are so rare there are no statistics which support the idea it should even be of concern.

Agriculture directors, state veterinarians and state legislators, however, have adopted programs which require lifetime quarantine or immediate slaughter of any horse which tests positive for EIA. That's about the same as getting the biggest bulldozer you can find to run over an ant.

Every year, because of the nationally adopted slaughter program, we kill hearty, useful, working horses for no good reason. We kill horses which are pets, which are show animals, which are ranch work horses. We kill horses who have never shown any sign whatsoever of suffering from EIA.


No one who is doing the killing can give you a quick-witted, full of understanding, sharp answer. In fact, most of those responsible for the killing haven't got an answer, let alone a good one.

The director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture, the man with the power to kill, or stop the killing, won't even talk to me about EIA or the Arizona state quarantine and kill program. His public information personnel won't give me an answer either.

The Arizona State Veterinarian says the quarantine or kill law is not based on the number of horse deaths caused by EIA. The decision to slaughter animals which have a disease is based on "production", according to the Arizona State Veterinarian's office.

So I ask, what does a horse produce? A horse, even one testing positive for EIA, produces happiness, mental health, pleasure. That horse helps a child grow in confidence, learn responsibility, sportsmanship and what the world need's most, love.

Well, because he has tested positive for EIA, he may not be producing love, confidence, happiness, mental health, pleasure and learned responsibility to his absolute potential. So, he ain't producing.
Kill him!

If the quarantine and slaughter program were designed to eradicate this dreaded disease--95 per cent of the horses who have it never show any ill effects--then maybe you could say with some understanding that the program at least was offering some protection to other horses.

The fact is, only about 20 per cent of the horses in the country are tested for EIA. That means that 80 per cent of the horses aren't being tested. You can't eradicate a dreaded disease that way, or protect other horses. The fact is, those who are being tested are being discriminated against, because their crime is they are going to cross state lines, thereby triggering the testing mandate. Getting those horses tested is easy for everyone who wants to profit from the useless slaughter of horses.

State government offices can build their budgets and personnel because they need people and money to enforce the law. Veterinarians make money drawing blood. It's quick, it's easy, and many times they can charge a call fee on top of the service fee. Laboratories which run the tests see the program as pure and simple guaranteed income.

And how much income is it? In 1999 horsemen spent an estimated $314 million dollars on Coggins testing. That ain't hay.

Now figure this, if Coggins testing continues and 40 per cent of the horses get tested, that could be $628 million a year. What if 65 per cent of the horses get tested? That could amount to nearly $1 billion in income.

Does anyone want to put a stop to a money maker like this? Only some stupid guy like me.
Please, someone, e-mail me, call me, or write to me and explain why we allow the killing of useful healthy horses.

If someone could explain, maybe I won't be so lacking in normal intelligence and understanding, so slow-witted, so dull.

I have had lots of e-mail in support of my article on EIA. Most emails are in favor of stopping the slaughter. Most of those writing have asked, "But what can we do?"
So that is the question for this month.

What can you do?
Help me gather information and help me spread the word. If you would take the time to call your state representative or your state senator and ask them if they are even aware of the law which mandates the quarantine or slaughter of horses, and then send me the name of the legislator, his or her answer, and the name of your state's veterinarian, I can use the information in upcoming columns.
I will thank you in upcoming columns as "those who have helped" without using your names, unless you want me to.
This battle to stop government from killing our horses simply to generate income for special interests is not going to be easy or short. I want government to recognize a new special interest group--horsemen.

Thanks for asking,
Don Blazer

For more information:
Please feel free to contact your Federal and State officials.
Don's website conveniently lists all the 50 states' click-on URLs at: http://www.donblazer.com/askdon/1100askdon.html

United States Department of Agriculture: http://www.usda.gov/

About the author:
Whatever horsemen do with horses, Don Blazer has probably done. He isn't one to sit on fences just talking. (His opinions don't sit on fences either.) He's trained and ridden everything from mustangs to Thoroughbreds, including western and English pleasure horses, reining horses, endurance racers and 300-yard sprinters. He's jumped horses, cut cattle, been through obstacles and around barrels. Don has taught training and horsemanship at five colleges, and he has traveled the world demonstrating training techniques. He's an adjunct faculty member of the Equine Science Department, Scottsdale Community College, teaching courses based on his books.

Don Blazer has contributed "how-to" training articles to most of the major horse publications and he is the author of Walter (A Horse, of Course) Spills the Oats, Natural Western Riding, Healthy Horses Seldom Burp, Training the Western Show Horse, Horses Don't Care About Women's Lib, Nine Secrets of Perfect Horsemanship and Make Money with Horses. He writes a weekly syndicated column, A Horse, Of Course, which appears nationally in both equine publications and general circulation newspapers. Look for Don Blazer's books in book, tack and Petsmart stores or at www.donblazer.com.

Horses trained by Don Blazer have won at English and western pleasure, western riding, jumping, dressage and reining, as well as both Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred stakes races.

Today Don Blazer keeps busy writing, training and racing horses, and is often a guest speaker.

Copyright © 2000 by Don Blazer
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