Animal import centre closed after three horses die

The US government has temporarily closed the Miami Animal Import Center to horse arrivals after three horses died.

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) animal and plant health inspection service (APHIS) made the decision to close the centre “out of an abundance of caution” on 16 January, as six horses had fallen ill.

Officials are investigating the cause of the illness but suspect salmonella, and centre staff are taking precautions to “prevent further disease spread”.

Despite immediate veterinary treatment, three of the affected horses died, the USDA said, but the other three are recovering.

“APHIS is conducting environmental testing at the facility, and the samples will be sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories for diagnostic testing,” a USDA statement said.

“Before reopening, the facility will undergo a complete cleaning and disinfection with disinfection targeted to any causative disease agent identified or suspected. Horses currently under quarantine at the facility are being closely monitored for any signs of illness.

“The Miami Animal Import Center has a long history of safely quarantining imported horses upon arrival in the United States. The health of the horses at the facility as well as any horses scheduled to arrive at the facility is our number one priority.”

The statement added that APHIS staff at the centre have increased biosecurity and disinfection efforts, and are reviewing operating procedures with staff.

Horses at the facility will remain there to complete quarantine, while those with reservations are being contacted.

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Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause intestinal disease in horses, humans and other animals. Signs of salmonella in horses include diarrhoea, colic and shock. Some animals’ symptoms are mild, while others can suffer fatal illness. 

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