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Equine vets pressured to break law
Moving semen from a liquid nitrogen storage tank.

BEVA members asked to inseminate mares with uncertified semen 

The BEVA has learned that its members are regularly being asked to illegally inseminate imported equine semen without the accompanying health certificate.

The organisation states that, not only does this jeopardise the health of the current UK horse population, but it also risks the professional status of vets involved.

“Import agencies have placed additional pressure on the vets to inseminate mare without the necessary paperwork,” explained Mark Bowen, senior vice president of the BEVA. “Not only is this action illegal but places mares under a direct threat from a notifiable and incurable disease.”

Every year, the UK imports thousands of shipments of equine germinal products including semen, ova or embryos. It is a legal requirement for all imported equine semen to be accompanied to the place of destination by an original, valid health certificate (ITAHC), issued in the country of origin.

In recent weeks, BEVA understands that consignments of equine semen have been imported without the appropriate documentation. This means that there is no guarantee that the semen is free from disease or even that is from the chosen stallion.

Of most concern is that well-known importers have advised mare owners that health certificates are unnecessary. These businesses have also criticised vets who refuse to inseminate mares with uncertified imported semen.

One such vet is Malcolm Morley, a partner at Stable Close Equine Practice, who was recently placed in a difficult position with a longstanding client when semen arrived without the required documentation.

After a discussion between the importer and the client, in which the client was informed that Malcolm was being pedantic, Malcolm contacted the importer stating:

“We have no intention of inseminating the mare without the correct health papers. Please, will you ensure that when you speak to the mare’s owner that you make it clear that you do not expect us to inseminate the mare in these circumstances and that the health papers should have been shipped with the semen.”

Another BEVA member, who wishes to remain anonymous, has voiced the concerns of many equine stud vets. “I have one very big client I think I may be about to lose because of my refusal to inseminate his mare without papers,” she said. “[The importer] did not feel it worth a three-hour drive to get papers done. The semen importer had made it clear to my client that I am just being awkward.”

The use of uncertified semen leads to increased risk of a recipient mare becoming infected with diseases such as contagious equine metritis (CEM) or equine viral arteritis (EVA). It may also lead to the rapid spread of disease in breeding stock and, in time, restrictions being placed on breeding premises.

The personal and professional reputation of any vet involved is also under threat, adds BEVA, with the RCVS likely to take stringent action on any vet who disregards animal health laws.

“No one should be inseminating mares with imported semen that isn’t accompanied by the original health certificate,” commented Tullis Matson, founder and managing director of Stallion AI Services. “If the UK wants to retain its high health status and continue to utilise the international market it needs the breeding industry and the veterinary profession to use the disease controls that are currently place until such a time as we can implement a more efficient system.”

In light of their findings, the BVA has set-out the following protective measures to support its members:

- Notifying owners that they must tell the agent that they will not accept semen without a valid health certificate, to protect the health of their own horses.

- Reassuring all vets performing stud duties that they are right to refuse to inseminate mares with semen that isn’t accompanied by a valid health certificate, to protect their professional status and safeguard the health status of the UK herd.

- Making sure owners and vets are aware that if they receive imported semen that isn’t accompanied by a valid health certificate they must report it immediately to their local animal health office and arrange for the semen to be destroyed.

- Reminding agents of the law and to make them aware that all BEVA members have been advised to report any indiscretions to their local animal health office.ake them aware that all BEVA members have been advised to report any indiscretions to their local animal health office.


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