Equine Identification Program

Information on the Animal Disease Traceability program, procedures for horse microchip implantation and premise registration.
Equine Identification Program - Articles


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Equine Identification

From 2007-2009, Penn State Equine Identification Project collected information about the advantages and disadvantages of the USDA National Animal Identification System (NAIS), now called the Animal Disease Traceability program. The information collected during the study assisted USDA in determining the identification system for equine. Under the final rule, adopted March 11, 2013, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate would have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.

The Animal Disease Traceability program includes a database of livestock animals - including horses - in the United States. Its purpose is to help producers and animal health officials respond quickly and effectively to animal health events. Under the traceability program, equine require an official certificate of veterinary inspection for interstate travel. This certificate can only be issued by a certified veterinarian. APHIS provides a complete explanation of requirements for equine identification.

One method of identification is the use of a microchip. The Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection can provide the microchip identification number. Microchipping a horse also can be utilized in lost or displaced equine, as a means of quickly identifying the equine when paperwork is not available. Therefore, Penn State research indicates that when performed according to standard protocol, microchip insertion is not detrimental to the health of the horse. (Health factors associated with microchip insertion in horses. M.I. Gerber, A.M. Swinker, W.B. Staniar, J.R. Werner, E. A. Jedrzejewski, A.L. Macrina, The Pennsylvania State University).

Implanting a Microchip

Equine Identification Project

The Penn State Equine Identification Project collected information about the advantages and disadvantages of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

The project, conducted from 2007 to 2009, had the following four distinctive components.

County 4-H Horse Program Microchipping Project

  • During this component of the project PA 4-H youth members and leaders were given the opportunity to register their premise, and implant a microchip in their horse, record movements of their equine and become familiar with NAIS.
  • Identification chips were implanted in the left side of the horse's neck by a trained certified veterinarian. A parental permission form and veterinary form were needed before the microchipping occurred.
  • Each horse that participated in the project received a Microchip Verification Certificate that verified the identification number and corresponded with the markings, age, gender and breed association information.
  • Three hundred nine horses were implanted with a RFID microchip.
  • 4-H members, their families, and 4-H leaders in ten PA counties participated in the program by implanting their horse with a microchip.
  • After the chip was implanted, the horse was scanned by a hand held device that reads the chip's data. The horse was scanned on the day the chip was implanted and at other 4-H events.
  • Fifteen counties in PA had 4-H members attend workshops and presentations.
  • Participants reported movements of horses.
  • During the 4-H component a premise number was obtained for participants who did not currently have a premise number. If the participant boarded the equine, the boarding stable obtained the premise number.


A total of six surveys were conducted during the project.

  • General Equine Owners Survey
  • United States Horse Owners Poll
  • Amish Community Survey
  • Horse Show and Event Managers Survey
  • Equine Veterinarians and Health Care Professionals Survey
  • AQHA Horse Owners from Western States Survey

The online survey was conducted to determine the impact of microchipping horses as a form of identification. Participants were 18 years of age and older. The survey participation was voluntary and information was kept confidential. Surveys were administered to a variety of interest groups within the horse industry to enable an overview of the acceptance, need, desire, agreement and opposition to NAIS.

Presentations and Workshops

  • The Pennsylvania State University incorporated educational workshops and presentations at Penn State sponsored events and to other organizations/events to assist in the education of NAIS for the horse industry.
  • Forty nine workshops and presentations were completed during the project
  • The NAIS was exposed to over 22,000 people

Inflammation Study

  • Temperature, inflammation and migration were evaluated.
  • Research indicated that when implantation is performed according to standard protocol, microchip insertion is not detrimental to the health of the horse.

USDA Animal Disease Traceability Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has instituted an Animal Disease Traceability Program to improve its ability to trace livestock in the event of a disease outbreak.

The new system applies to all livestock moving interstate.

USDA Adopts Animal Disease Traceability Program

  • Announced January 9, 2013
  • Effective March 11, 2013


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has instituted its Animal Disease Traceability Program (ADTP) to improve its ability to trace livestock, including horses, in the event of a disease outbreak. The new system applies to all livestock moving interstate.

  • Under the new federal regulations, horses moving interstate must be identified and accompanied by an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI).
  • The new system is built on methods of identification and movement documentation that are already employed in the horse industry, e.g., written descriptions, digital photographs, brands, tattoos, electronic identification methods, and interstate certificates of veterinary inspection.
  • The person or entity responsible for moving the horse interstate must ensure that it has an ICVI or other document required by the new rule.

The ADTP will be administered by the states with federal support. The new rules also apply to movements to and from a Tribal area. In those cases, the Tribal authorities are involved in the system.


The horse industry has been dramatically affected by serious disease outbreaks in the last ten years, which have halted or restricted the movement of horses and the commerce surrounding the horses. The new program is intended to help the Department, state authorities and the horse industry better deal with such disease outbreaks and to minimize disease effects on horses and economic effects on owners and the industry.

  • This new rule is based on the previous National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which was the original voluntary system proposed by USDA to deal with disease outbreaks and traceability. Since the prior rule was voluntary and generated significant concerns over complexity, confidentiality, liability, cost and privacy, it was not supported and was rethought.
  • USDA reconsidered its approach and decided that rather than attempting to identify every animal, every premise, and every movement to achieve traceability within 48 hours of a disease outbreak, it would develop a more limited and simpler system. The ADTP just adopted is the result.
  • The new system does not require the registration of premises housing livestock or the specific reporting of individual movements of horses.

Effective Date

The new rules will be effective March 11, 2013. There will be a transition period during which USDA has suggested it will not enforce the new rule. This is to give livestock owners time to understand the rules and make any changes necessary to comply.

Specific Requirements for Horse Owners

Interstate Travel

Under the new regulations, horses moving interstate must be (1) identified prior to movement and (2) accompanied by an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) or other state-approved document.

  • All states now require an ICVI to accompany any horse entering their state. This should make for a smooth transition to the new traceability rule since most horse owners moving their horses interstate for breeding, racing, showing, recreation, etc. should already be in compliance with the provisions in the new rule.

Identification of Horses

Horses that are required to be officially identified under the new rules may be identified by one of the following methods:

  • A description sufficient to identify the individual horse including, but not limited to, name, age, breed, color, gender, distinctive markings, and unique and permanent forms of identification, such as brands, tattoos, scars, cowlicks, blemishes, or biometric measurements).
  • In the event that the identity of the horse is in question at the receiving destination, the state animal health official in the state of destination or APHIS representative may determine if the description provided is sufficient; or
  • Electronic identification (Animal Identification Number) that complies with ISO 11784/11785; or
  • Non-ISO electronic identification injected into the horse on or before March 11, 2014; or
  • Digital photographs sufficient to identify the individual horse; or

A USDA backtag for horses being transported to slaughter as required by the Commercial Transport of Horses to Slaughter regulations. Animal Identification Numbers and microchips are an option, but not a requirement for horses.

ICVI Requirements

Under the new rules, horses moved interstate must be accompanied by an ICVI or other document acceptable to the states involved. The person or entity responsible for moving the horse interstate must ensure it has an ICVI or other document.

  • The APHIS representative, state representative or accredited veterinarian issuing the ICVI or other document must forward a copy to the state health official in the state of origin within seven days of issuing the document.
  • The state representative in the state of origin must forward a copy to the state representative in the state of destination within seven days of receiving it.
  • In the event of a disease outbreak, these documents will be used to trace horses that are or have been at the site of the outbreak and horses that have come into contact with them.

The new regulations give states the discretion to approve other methods of movement documentation, which may include an EIA test chart, when agreed upon by the animal health officials in the states involved in the interstate movement.

While not specifically referenced, movement documents could also include an event passport. USDA has maintained options in the final rule to support the use of other movement documentation, for example an owner-shipper statement or brand certificate, if agreed to by the state animal health officials involved.

Retention of Records

Currently, states bear the responsibility for the collection, maintenance, and retrieval of data on interstate livestock movements. These responsibilities will be maintained under the new rules. The animal health official or accredited veterinarian issuing or receiving an ICVI or other document must keep a copy for five years to ensure horses can be identified and traced if a disease manifests itself at or after an event.


There are exclusions to the new requirements for the following horses:

  • Horses used as a mode of transportation (horseback, horse and buggy) for travel to another location that return directly to the original location.
  • Horses moved from a farm or stable for veterinary treatment that are returned to the same location without change in ownership.
  • Horses moved directly from a location in one state through another state to a second location in the original state.
  • Horses moved between shipping and receiving states with another form of identification or documentation other than an ICVI, e.g., a horse infectious anemia test chart, as agreed to by the shipping and receiving states or tribes involved in the movement.


All horse owners or anyone moving horses interstate or involved in that process should review the new requirements to ensure they are complying with them.