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Changes to Biosecurity Act: What You Need To Know Before July 2016

July 2016 by Harriet Leahy

New Biosecurity Laws will come into effect on the 1st July 2016, as part of the long-awaited Biosecurity Act. This Act replaces the Quarantine Act of 1908 and will change the way horse owners, event organisers and the equestrian industry as a whole manage current biosecurity laws and legislation, particularly those in biosecurity-sensitive Queensland. Harriet Leahy reports on the most important aspects all horse owners need to know. 

The new Act is specifically designed to be flexible and responsive to technological advancements; effectively future-proofing the legislation and creating an agreeable, straightforward system which will benefit the industry, the individual and the enforcers.

Biosecurity itself will by no means diminish but, essentially, the government is placing responsibility in ‘our’ hands; it becomes a mutual effort to reduce biosecurity hazards and create a system which not only reduces contamination risks, but also allows for more straightforward, less hassle movement of horses.

As horse owners and industry participants, we have been issued with a ‘General Biosecurity Obligation (GBO)':

The GBO requires all persons who deal with a biosecurity matter or carrier [a horse], if they know or ought reasonably to know that it poses a biosecurity risk, to take all reasonable or practical measures to minimise the risk.

A fundamental target of the Act is to encourage all equestrians to properly inform themselves on appropriate treatments for their situation: if you are in or likely to visit a cattle tick area, then you must find out the best contingency plan for minimising risk and/or exposure.

This means familiarising oneself with the effects of ticks; how to identify if your horse has ticks; how to avoid ticks; how to treat a horse that has come into contact with/is a carrier of cattle ticks. It is then up to the individual to make risk-based decisions on the treatment or movement of the horse; ‘Have I been in a tick-infested area and do I need to treat my horse accordingly?’

In Queensland, there will no longer be compulsory treatment (checking and spraying) when travelling your horse across the tick line. This procedure will cease on 30th June 2016 and is to be replaced by a number of preventative steps.

PIC's and now RBE's

Previously, any property that has one of more horses on it had to register with Biosecurity Queensland (and be issued with a Property Identification Code (PIC)). This still stands, but now the individual in care and control of the horse must register their details and be issued with a Registrable Biosecurity Entity (RBE), whether or not they are the property owner. This may mean that in the case of agistment facilities or similar, there will be many RBEs registered to one PIC.

This will have a twofold effect. Not only is the responsibility of the horses' biosecurity health attributed to the individual RBE, but it increases and improves traceability - one of the most important and effective ways of combatting disease.

If you already have a PIC, you will automatically be registered as an RBE and renewal of the PIC will be required every three years.

Movement permits

The movement of horses permit system will undergo significant changes:

Yearly, multiple movement permits and Owner Treatment schemes will no longer exist. Instead, every time a horse moves from a property to another place, a Movement Record must be created.

In order to make this an attainable and manageable prospect, these records can be in any format so long as they capture the following key points:

  • Where the horse is moving from,
  • Where the horse is going to and the name of the person receiving the horse,
  • The name and details of the person completing the record,
  • A description of the horse, and
  • The date of movement.

This record does not necessarily need to be a piece of paper - it could be in the form of a text, photograph, email - but the record MUST be kept for two years. Furthermore, the driver does not need to be in possession of this record unless crossing the tick line.

In New South Wales, you will still require a biosecurity certificate from an accredited certifier.

Movement Record Exemption: There is an official exemption in tick-free areas for movement within 20kms of the property for husbandry purposes. However, if in doubt, make some sort of a record. The main aim of this law is all about being able to trace animals and, equally importantly, have definite dates of travel.

It will still be a requirement to take only tick-free animals into the tick-free zone, and this must be declared on your movement record. For example, “These horses are tick-free because I inspected them on this date and they have come out of a tick-free environment…” or “These horses are tick-free because I inspected and sprayed them on this date…”

As an owner, you are given the choice of how you go about ensuring your animal is tick-free. These risk minimisation options will be available on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website on or near to July 1st 2016 (they are not available at time of publishing this article).

Reducing red tape

Ultimately, the changes made to biosecurity laws have reduced red tape and paperwork; there had been no change to your biosecurity duties as a horse owner - it is still essential to maintain good biosecurity at all times.

Reasonable steps to ensure your horse is healthy and tick-free include checking them daily to ensure they are in good health, eating and drinking (horses that are turned out and lacking condition are more susceptible to both cattle-tick and other health issues); removing manure/soiled bedding twice daily if the horse is stabled or in a yard; controlling insects and vermin; ensuring tack and equipment are kept clean; keeping up to date with vaccination and worming; regular grooming/shampooing; inspecting your horse all over and spraying, if necessary, with a pyrethrum-based insect repellent or roll on; being aware of high-risk areas or situations that you might encounter (events in tick zones or mixing with horses from tick infested areas), and declaring your presence at these locations on any movement forms.

If you do discover a tick on your horse in a tick-free zone, this must be declared immediately.

Detailed information on how to check for and treat ticks, the tick-free/infested areas, and all information on the new Biosecurity Act can be found here (Equestrian Queensland webpage), and here (DAF QLD).