Thursday, May 24, 2012

Smugglers bringing diseased horses across Mexican border

Ten horses authorities believe were smuggled into Texas across the Mexican border are infected with Equine Piroplasmosis (EP), a condition routinely found in Mexico and numerous other countries around the world, and a condition that can prove fatal to horses and could create major constraints to interstate and international movements if left undetected. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents seized the horses near the Rio Grande River in Hudspeth County, just south of El Paso. USDA’s Animal Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) took control of the animals which are being quarantined in Presidio (Texas) pending an investigation. CBP officials say they believe the horses may have been led across a shallow river crossing near Indian Springs. All ten of the horses were confirmed with the disease. APHIS officials say illegal movement of animals across the border is an ongoing problem in that region. "In some places the Rio Grande poses no barrier at all to foot traffic for man or animal," reports Dr. Grant Wease with USDA-APHIS in El Paso. "In 2011, approximately 280 head of cattle and 160 head of equine—mostly horses—were intercepted by USDA officials along the Rio Grande." Last week, Kevin Good, assistant Texas State Parks director, warned of escalating problems with feral burros crossing the Rio Grande and taking up residence in the Big Bend Ranch State Park, where they pose a threat to native wildlife because they compete for forage and water resources. Officials think that these ten diseased horses may be part of an organized smuggling operation. CBP agents say the horses may have been stolen from Mexican ranches and brought across the border to sell. Because of the rugged landscape and miles of remote river crossing, detection of such smuggling operations are difficult. Dr. Wease says drug violence in Mexico poses another problem for inspectors in the remote regions of the border. He says illegal activities and the presence of all types of smuggling operations in the region even makes monitoring and inspections of legal animal imports a major risk along the border...more

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