Woman demands explanation for USDA's new animal ID rules

Dolan Springs resident Midge Britton became angry after reading a story about the United States Department of Agriculture's National Animal Identification System.

The first paragraph states, "The soon-to-be mandatory procedures require cattle, horses, llamas, and all animals to have an identification number placed in the ear, or some species may have a computer chip injected under the skin."

A fine up to $1,000 is mentioned in the story for non-compliance with the NAIS.

Britton said the Mohave County Fair Book explains livestock exhibitors must obtain a self-inspection seasonal pass for all cattle, goats and sheep to be exhibited in the state, per Arizona Revised Statute 3-1346, Section R-3-2-703.

"What some of us are afraid of is in the next five years, dogs, cats and horses, which are now more pets, will have their movement tracked by the government," Britton said.

"Every premise would need a number, and to take them on a trail ride, to a roping event, or to a fair or show, and you must show a record of that movement to some agency.

"Why must we have animal movements tracked? This is a violation of our rights and scary stuff, like Hitler. If the government decides to get away from meat animals, it may go for dogs or cats next. Why must I be tracked wherever I take my pet?"

Britton said she heard Homeland Security was involved in the regulations.

"Homeland Security has nothing to do with any of this," said Randy Servis, the ADA livestock officer in Flagstaff whose jurisdiction also covers Mohave County.

"The seasonal pass allows us to go back later and learn what animal it was associated with. There are many contagious diseases out there and this permits us to track animals at fairs."

The Mohave County Fair is slated for Sept. 13-16. Entry deadline for livestock and small animals is Saturday, and Sept. 10 for gymkhana and horse show entries.

Copies of the Mohave County Fair Book may be obtained at the fairgrounds office, public libraries, city complex, feed stores, senior center, hobby shops, Mohave Community College or by calling 753-2636.

Seasonal passes are not necessary for dogs, cats, chickens or other animals not considered livestock. They are needed for all cattle, sheep, goats and swine, along with proof of ownership of the animals, Servis said.

Exhibitors may put up to 10 animals on each seasonal pass. Information must include the animal's breed, color or markings, sex and permanent ID, such as a brand, ear tag number, tattoo or microchip.

In addition, sheep and goats must be identified by a scrapes number or tattoo, Servis said.

Scrapes is an encephalitis-like, mad-cow-type disease common to sheep and goats. It may also take the form of a chronic wasting disease in deer or elk and it always affects the animal's brain, he said.

ADA seasonal passes cost $5 apiece and may be downloaded from the Web site at www.azda.gov. They must accompany any livestock animal that is moved in the state.

"We want livestock exhibitors to comply so they don't wind up receiving a citation," Servis said. "If you fail to show the seasonal pass when stopped while moving livestock on the streets of Arizona, you could receive a fine. The amount would be determined in justice court."

Servis said the ADA has become pro-active in recent years in enforcing seasonal passes due to a concern of the spread of animal disease.

"This has nothing to do with the NAIS," Servis said. "People are going on a lot of misinformation, and that's not unique to our state. Where it gets confusing is tying things together with the scrapes ID number. That's where some people see the NAIS. We have two separate programs and statutes."

NAIS is a voluntary program for livestock and does not extend to household pets, he said.

The scrapes law came into existence in 2003 and has not been widely enforced. Enforcement is increasing in lieu of swine and hog diseases found in California, New Mexico and Texas since then, Servis said.

According to the USDA Web site, NAIS is a streamlined information system that helps producers and animal health officials respond quickly and effectively to animal health events. It is a voluntary state-federal-industry partnership designed to protect a producer's premises and livelihood, reduce hardships caused by disease outbreak and protect access to markets.

"Premise registration, the foundation of NAIS, is fundamental to containing animal diseases," the site states. "Your voluntary participation means that you will be notified quickly when a disease outbreak or other animal event might put your animals at risk."