WASHINGTON, D.C., January 16, 2019—Out of an abundance of caution, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is temporarily closing the Miami Animal Import Center to new arrivals after a handful of horses quarantined at the facility became sick. APHIS is investigating to determine the specific cause of illness in these horses, however, officials suspect salmonella, and the facility is taking precautions to stop further disease spread.
The temporary closure is effective on Saturday, January 19, 2019. APHIS is conducting environmental testing at the facility, and the samples will be sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories for diagnostic testing. 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.
To date, six horses have fallen ill with symptoms, such as diarrhea, fever and lameness. Despite receiving immediate medical treatment, three of the horses died. The other three horses are recovering. APHIS will share more information once it is available.
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 No. 1 priority. In response to the sick horses, APHIS officials at the import center have increased biosecurity and disinfection efforts. They are also reviewing standard operating procedures with employees and verifying that all procedures are being followed. Employees at the import center are exempted from the furlough, and the government shutdown has not affected operations or staffing at the facility.
Employees at the import center are reaching out to horse brokers who have upcoming reservations at the facility to notify them of the temporary closure and apologizing for the inconvenience. Those with reservations between now and January 19th can choose to maintain their quarantine reservations or make alternate arrangements. Horses that are already at the facility will remain at the import center to complete the quarantine process, and will be released to their brokers as scheduled unless the brokers seek alternate arrangements.
The import center has approximately 95 individual horse stalls available for quarantine purposes. In addition to horse facilities, the import center also has a separate quarantine area for birds. APHIS veterinarians are monitoring all birds under quarantine and have not seen any signs of illness. The avian facility will remain open and intake of new birds will continue as scheduled.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause intestinal disease in horses, cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, dogs, cats, birds, humans, and many other species. It is not uncommon for it to occur in facilities where many horses congregate, such as veterinary hospitals. Signs of salmonella in horses vary, but can most often include diarrhea, colic and shock. While some animals may have very mild symptoms, others may have severe illness that can lead to death.