Australia Relaxes Restrictions on United Kingdom Horses

Australian officials are relaxing restrictions on United Kingdom horses imposed as a result of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, permitting horses from Britain into the country under certain quarantine conditions.

According to the Australian Racing Board, horses from the UK will be allowed to travel on direct flights to Australia for race meetings such as the Melbourne Cup. As part of the protocols, senior veterinary officers with the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service will conduct detailed inspections of pre-export quarantine facilities.

The protocols that will govern importation of European Union horses to Australia for the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival are the result of a meeting last month between a delegation representing the Australian thoroughbred racing industry and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry and the Director of Animal & Plant Quarantine. The meeting included a review of the protocols then in place and the "obstacles they posed to racehorses travelling from Europe, and in particular from the United Kingdom," according to the racing board.

"Representatives of the industry also pointed out that for racing officials to attract the overseas runners that are so important to the success of the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival a decision to adopt revised protocols was required as a matter of urgency," the ARB statement said.

According to the ARB, Racing Victoria's chief veterinary surgeon, Dr John McCaffrey, made submissions on the protocols that should "desirably be adopted to allow competition horses to enter Australia and at the same time ensure that Australia remains free of foot and mouth disease."

There was unanimity that any changes would only be considered on their scientific merits, according to the ARB, with Director of Animal & Plant Quarantine, Mike Taylor, indicating that his department would try to find a satisfactory solution.

Allowing the European horses into Australia under the new set of protocols, "is a sensible outcome that will allow Australia's premier sporting event to proceed unimpeded at the same time as maintaining the highest standards of quarantine that have kept this devastating disease out of Australia for almost 130 years," according to the racing board.