TAHC Proposes Regulations for Premises Identification

Commissioners for the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) proposed regulations for Texas’ premises and animal identification program at their December meeting. Comments will be accepted on the proposals for 45 days from publication in the Texas Register. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. Monday, February 6, 2006, and may be submitted to comments@tahc.state.tx.us, faxed to (512) 719-0721, or mailed to: Delores Holubec, TAHC, Box 12966, Austin, TX 78711-2966. The entire text of the rule proposal may be found at: http://www.sos.state.tx.us/texreg/sos/PROPOSED/4.AGRICULTURE.html.

If you have trouble accessing the page and would like to review the text, please email Carla Everett at ceverett@tahc.state.tx.us.

Why these regulations were proposed…

During the recent legislative session, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1361, authorizing the TAHC to develop and implement an animal identification system consistent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS). HB 1361 (Chapter 161.056 of the Texas Agriculture Code) also authorizes the TAHC to determine when premises identification will be required and to assess and collect fees for premises registration.

As the NAIS is phased in, the TAHC’s program also will evolve. TAHC commissioners have proposed regulations at this time for premises identification only. Premises identification is the foundation for all other components of the NAIS.

Prior to July 1, 2006, premises in Texas may be registered at no charge, and the premises identification number will remain valid through June 30, 2008. Although the 7-character premises identification number will not change, the premises registration must be renewed July 1, 2008, and every 24 months thereafter. At renewal, the proposed regulations provide for a yearly premises registration fee of $10, paid biennially. The $20 two-year registration fee is to be submitted to the TAHC at the time of registration renewal.

On July 1, 2006, premises registration will be compulsory in Texas. All persons who own, manage or are caretakers for locations where livestock, exotic livestock, poultry, or exotic poultry are handled must register their premises with the TAHC and submit the $20 two-year fee. Renewal and fee payment will be required every 24 months thereafter.

Privacy considerations under the proposed TAHC regulations…

Information collected by the TAHC for premises or animal identification is exempt from public disclosure requirements under the Texas Public Information Act.

Compliance and the proposed regulations…

Although the TAHC commissioners always urge voluntary compliance with agency regulations, the proposals include penalties for noncompliance.

The Texas Agriculture Code (law) may be found on the TAHC website at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us, by selecting the “Statutes and Regulations” link on the front page.

Basics of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS)…

The goal of the NAIS is to enable animal health officials to identify locations where infected or exposed animals have been and to track animal movement from those locations within 48 hours, in the event of an animal disease outbreak. Three main components comprise the system:

Premises identification defines a geographic site, such as ranches, farms, feedlots, livestock markets, slaughter establishments, rendering or carcass collection points, veterinary clinics, livestock show, fair or exhibition sites, quarantine facilities, laboratories, ports of entry, or any other facilities where animals are handled. These include cattle, horses, mules, asses, sheep, goats and hogs; exotic livestock; domestic fowl, such as chickens, turkeys, and game birds; and poultry and exotic fowl.

The premises number is a unique 7-character code, issued by the TAHC or USDA. Owners or managers can register their premises and obtain the unique code online at the TAHC web site at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us. Applications also may be obtained at many cooperative extension service offices, livestock markets, veterinary clinics or from livestock and poultry associations. As of early December, more than 4,200 premises in Texas had been registered. In the U.S. (including Texas), about 160,000 have been registered.

A person who owns or manages two or more locations and commingles animals may register the locations under one premises number. However, if a person maintains livestock on multiple locations but does not commingle the animals, then each location should be registered separately.

Animal identification, when implemented, will require that certain species of animals are tagged with a uniquely numbered 15-digit electronic identification device when they are moved from their herd of origin, or are commingled with animals from other premises. The device is intended to remain with the animal for life. If a device is lost, the animal can be retagged.

Under the national animal identification system (NAIS), still in development, premises numbers will NOT be imprinted on the animal identification devices. The unique 7-character premises identification and the
15-digit animal identification device number will correlate only in records. Each animal identification device will be individually numbered.

In the NAIS, some species, such as commercially produced swine or poultry, may be identified by group/lot numbers, provided the animals are held and managed as a group throughout the pre-harvest production process.

Animal tracking, the final component of the national plan, will involve recording and reporting those animals moved, sold, commingled or slaughtered. This component, when implemented, will enable efficient tracing of animals for disease eradication efforts.

Additional NAIS information and links can be found on the TAHC web site at: http://www.tahc.state.tx.us/animal_id/index.shtml.

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