Every horse has the potential to carry with it diseases that no other horse wants to get. So to prevent the spread of diseases that could have devastating effects on the visiting community of horses, the federal government set up an inspection process for every horse that ships across state lines.
Officially, they are called a Veterinary Certificate of Inspection or VCI. Only veterinarians accredited with the USDA (the US Department of Agriculture) are allowed to fill them out and perform the inspection in the US. Veterinarians take this responsibility seriously, meaning that if they cut corners, they will be held liable for any disease transmission.
Every state can add requirements to the VCI if an animal is coming to their state. For instance, if a neighboring state has cases of a reportable disease such as Equine Herpes Virus or Strangles, the VCI will state that the horses examined on this VCI show no signs of or exposure to the disease within the past 14 days. But, each state sets the requirements to the state’s wishes. While most states don’t check these forms, some do. For instance, every horse trailer entering or leaving Florida needs to stop at the agricultural inspection station and show their VCI and Coggins papers.
International transport of horses also requires a VCI specific to the destination country. In addition, many countries require a quarantine once entering the country, plus the passing of tests performed within the receiving country.
Horses are considered livestock, just like cattle and swine. As an industry, if a disease enters the indigenous population, profound economic devastation could occur to the owner and death to thousands of animals. Pictures of pigs numbering in the thousands with horrific and painful hoof and mouth disease moved into a pit where authorities shot and buried the carcasses are on the internet. These animals couldn’t walk or eat due to the lesions of the hooves and the mouth. Slaughtering was humane as there was no cure for this virus.
Horses also have an economic impact even though they are not used for food here. Contagious diseases can shut down horse shows, close breeding sheds for a season, and cancel racing. Horse owners moving their stock across state lines are required to have a VCI so that in case of an outbreak of disease, there is a method of tracking movement (contact tracing).