by Heather Smith Thomas http://www.equinechronicle.com/Features/Thomas/thomas_B1006.html
Horse owners have a lot of questions about the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) plan that USDA wants
us to comply with (premises registration, individual identification of our horses, and reporting the movements of horses).
We wonder whether we’ll all have to ID our horses and what kind of ID we’ll have to use. Many horsemen already
have their horses identified in some way, either for their breed registration and/or theft or loss recovery or proof of ownership—with
freeze brands, hot brands, lip tattoos, descriptions of identifying markings on registration papers, DNA parentage, or microchips.
Will we have to use an additional ID?
The NAIS plan (which is primarily geared toward farm animals, but includes horses
because horses are considered livestock) calls for radio frequency identification devices—such as ear tags with microchips
(for cattle, sheep, pigs, etc.) or microchips implanted directly into the animal (for horses). Microchips can be inserted
into the middle third of the nuchal ligament (the long, strong ligament that runs from poll to withers) at the top of the
horse’s neck. The NAIS plan also specifies a certain type of microchip: the ISO 11784/11785 134.2 kilohertz chip.
THE EQUINE SPECIES WORKING GROUP
When the NAIS plan took shape in 2002-2003, the USDA, in conjunction with the National Institute for American
Agriculture (NIAA) created a task force—National Identification Development Team—representing 70 livestock industry
groups and government agencies. This team decided they needed to create working groups within each species to represent to
USDA what is unique about identification in their species. The American Horse Council had already put together its own task
force to look into the NAIS plan, so this group became the Equine Species Working Group—the official liaison between
USDA and the horse industry. Its purpose is to evaluate the NAIS plan, recommend ways the horse industry can fit into the
NAIS, and develop standards for equine ID that will mesh with the NAIS if it becomes mandatory.
There were originally 35
members on this group, volunteers from various breeds and interests within the horse industry, and people from USDA and a
few state departments of agriculture. The ESWG started out with enthusiastic efforts to identify goals and create a working
plan for the horse industry, but members have not always been in agreement and membership has kept changing. A smaller number
have continued to participate, and there’s been a small core group of members who have determined its direction.
on this core group of people, for various reasons, decided it was best to go along with the USDA’s plan—and try
to make recommendations that would fit the horse industry a little better than if we wait and have the government tell us
what we have to do. As part of that “fitting in”, they decided that microchips would be the best means of individual
identification for horses, and that a certain type of microchip (being pushed by USDA for the livestock industry) would also
be the best one for horses. Their recommendation to horse owners to use this chip is stated in their 20 page booklet “National
Animal Identification System and Horses” published in May, 2006 (available on the American Horse Council website and
the ESWG website).
Jim Morehead, DVM (representing the American Association of Equine Practitioners, on the ESWG) has taken
an active role in the ESWG and was instrumental in its formation and organization. He says, “We’re probably looking
at microchips for future ID for our horses. It’s the most practical, at this point, with current technology. The ESWG
wants horsemen to use the 134.2 kHz (kilohertz) chip. The particulars on that chip merely say that it has 15 digits (the first
3 being a country code).
“Thus far, this is the only requirement for our horses’ microchips. There is a lot
of talk about using bio-thermal chips that also have capability of transmitting the temperature of the horse, rather than
just having a number on it. This would probably be more expensive, however, and we don’t yet know how well those chips
work. At this point, what’s important to the ESWG is that the chip have a number, and it has to be an ISO (International
Standards Organization) number,” says Morehead.
This particular issue, however, has created a great deal of controversy
within and outside the ESWG. The ISO system is a foreign system that the U.S. has never used, up until now. The chips in this
system operate at a different frequency than those being used in this country. Many people are wondering why the USDA, and
especially the horse industry, suddenly decided to change to this system when we have been using a different microchip system
in this country for the past 15 years. At this point in time, there are already more than 800,000 horses and millions of pets
microchipped (for permanent and secure ID that enables them to be traced back to their owners if lost or stolen), yet the
USDA and ESWG want to throw out this system and start over.
THE “AMERICAN” SYSTEM
Horsemen and pet owners have been using RFID (radio frequency identification device) microchips for a long time—for
theft prevention, lost animal and disaster recovery, regulatory needs, etc. Owner contact information (to recover lost or
stolen animals, for instance) is kept in a private database and released only upon owner request. This has been a very rapidly
growing voluntary system for horse owners, with more than 100,000 scanners currently in place throughout the country. The
microchip system in this country operates at a radio frequency of 125 kHz.
The state of Louisiana uses these microchips
in efforts to control Equine Infectious Anemia. In order to get their annual Coggins test, horses must have permanent individual
ID. It can be a tattoo, freeze brand, microchip—anything unique to that horse— but most owners have chosen microchips.
Louisiana made it their official system in 1995. The state veterinarian’s office purchases chips from Destron and distributes
them to vets around the state. About 90 percent of horses in Louisiana (more than 200,000 horses) are chipped. This was very
helpful after Hurricane Katrina left hundreds of animals homeless. After Katrina, 364 horses were gathered up, and owners
were located for all but one, largely because of these microchips. If any of those horses had ISO 134.2 frequency chips, however,
no scanners could have “read” them.
According to Dr. John Wade, a Louisiana veterinarian who has been in private
practice since 1980 and has been microchipping horses since 1988 (and head of AVID equine division, a company that makes chips
for horses), says that AVID, Destron and other makers of 125 kHz chips are sending out more scanners every day. “Every
dog that’s picked up, every horse that’s found, can be identified if it has a 125 kHz microchip. If you call the
sheriff’s department or your local pound/shelter, they will scan the animal and tell you who it belongs to within a
few minutes,” says Wade.
If a stolen horse might end up at a slaughterhouse, the plants that slaughter horses can
be alerted. Federally inspected packing plants that kill horses have scanners and will scan upon request. If there’s
report of a theft, they can be asked to look for a bay mare, for instance, and will oblige by scanning any horse that fits
that description. If they find that chip number, they’ll hold that horse and not kill it, explains Wade. “The
Texas Rangers, brand inspectors and other law enforcement agencies use scanners to identify recovered equines and return them
to owners,” he says.
Though his company makes several kinds of chips, including a 134.2 kHz ISO chip (selling those
to countries that use it), he doesn’t want to see the U.S. change to this type of chip because it is not a “secure”
chip for proof of ownership or animal tracing. “AVID has 10 years of hands-on experience with this foreign microchip
system and the problems that accompany it,” says Wade.
THE ISO SYSTEM
|WHAT IS THE NAIS?
The NAIS plan and USDA’s strategy for implementing it can be found on USDA website: www.aphis.usda.gov
and www.usda.gov/nais. The NAIS is a State-Federal-Industry program administered by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service (APHIS). The stated objective is an information system to enable animal health officials to respond rapidly to emergencies
such as outbreaks of foreign animal diseases or emerging domestic diseases, with animal traceback to farm of origin within
USDA has made cooperative agreements with states and tribes, giving them money to get all premises under their
jurisdiction registered. USDA hopes to have 475,000 of the 2 million premises registered by the end of this year. Animal ID
began in March, and by June the USDA was making cooperative agreements with private and state animal tracking databases hoping
to have all databases functional by February, 2007. The system is voluntary until 2009, at which time the USDA hopes for 100
percent of premises registered and animals identified. After that, the USDA has a contingency plan to make it mandatory “if
participation rates are not adequate.”
An RFID system used by some countries operates at 134.2 kHz frequency. The International Standards Organization
is a group that creates standards for various things marketed in the European community. Since there are many different countries
in a relatively small geographic area (similar to the various states in the U.S.) and many companies manufacturing similar
products, there needed to be standards between countries and companies. The ISO is made up of representatives from the participating
countries and the industries within them; the working groups within the ISO structure are composed of company representatives
The next level up are the SC groups, with national delegates from the different national standards
organizations that sit on these groups. Countries can opt into different SC groups, where they vote on various standards.
At this point there are more than 17,000 ISO standards, on everything from tractor parts to paper sizes. The particular ISO
standard in question for RFID equipment (radio frequency chips and readers) is ISO 11784/11785.
Barbara Masin is part of
a company (Electronic Identification Devices, Ltd. and Trovan, Ltd, a British company) that has supplied electronic animal
ID products for more than 15 years. Their technology is the most widely used today in the field of RFID and has supplied 100s
of millions of transponders (microchips) to more than 100 countries, for use in pets, endangered species, fish and many types
of animals. The company markets ISO chips as well as “American” chips with other frequencies. As a representative
of this company, Masin sits on the board in charge of developing the ISO 11784/85 standard, as a U.S. delegate representing
United States interests. She has serious concerns about the use of this particular RFID system in a national animal identification
program because of its shortcomings for this type of application (providing unique identification).
The ISO 11784/85 committee
has been involved in addressing the problems that have arisen over the past several years due to use of these chips for animal
ID, since numbers on these chips can be easily duplicated. This particular chip system was originally developed in Russia
to microchip tractor parts. It came from the need to accurately identify machinery parts for an international community. A
scanner in France or Germany, for instance, could read the microchip and tell you what the part was. So the ISO accepted this
system, which is a low frequency 134.2 kHz chip. One reason they chose it was because it was a smaller chip and had no proprietary
attachments to it (no ownership, no patents) and was free to be used by anyone, anytime, anywhere.
was originally developed for agricultural equipment, commodities and closed-loop application in livestock, such as individual
animal ID in dairy herds,” says Masin. “A farmer could utilize it to monitor the performance of individual animals.”
A dairyman using automatic feeding in individual stanchions, for instance, might want to know which cow was which, and which
part of the lactation cycle the animal is in, so the feed could be adjusted accordingly.
“In this situation it really
doesn’t matter whether or not these chip numbers can be duplicated or reprogrammed, because the farmer is in a closed-loop
operation and in control of what’s happening. And with tractor parts, you are merely updating things like maintenance
information—like when this item was in for inspection the last time,” explains Masin.
“When this system
was developed, the concept was for it to be an open standard. All the ISO standards are published, and any company that is
interested can then conform with the published standard. It works very well if you are using it for commodities like copier
paper, to make sure the products are the same and will work in various copiers. Then it doesn’t matter if you buy your
paper from Xerox or Weyerhauser; if you put it in your photocopy machine it will fit. The same with modem protocols; no matter
where I buy them, they can talk to each other. They all conform to the same standard and talk the same language,” she
But within the ISO standard there are reprogrammable chips and some can be reprogrammed multiple times. In the beginning,
the ISO concept was for unique ID codes for farm animals (one number, unique for life). But ear tags (containing the chips)
in cattle, sheep, etc. are often lost. In 2001, the ISO group responsible for standard 11784/85 decided that the solution
to this problem would be to allow for retagging the animal with a new tag carrying the same ID number as the lost one. But
a farmer can’t wait six months to get a “duplicate” tag from the manufacturer (who can’t stop production
to make just a few transponders with duplicate numbers) so ISO allowed for OTP (one time programmable) “blank”
microchips that could be programmed with the number of the lost tag.
For retagging with identical numbers ISO allowed for
“uniquely identifying up to 7 retaggings of an animal”. Then reprogrammable tags were also allowed. In a May 31,
2001 ISO document describing their recommendations for replacing lost animal transponders, they stated it would be disastrous
if OTPs fall into the wrong hands; “they should be transported in a secure way to issuing stations and must be safely
kept. It is a national responsibility that the procedure is followed properly.” Instead of trying to preserve the integrity
of the system, they essentially said, “You can duplicate and reprogram these chips, but we are not responsible.”
Masin points out, problems arise when we begin using this technology for something it was not designed for—such as an
open loop approach where there are lots of different animals. “Chipped animals may be part of a national system being
used to control compliance (to make sure people are actually doing what they say they are doing, pertaining to animal health,
for instance) or to make sure that an animal is indeed the individual with that number when it crosses a state line or goes
somewhere else,” says Masin. USDA is not being realistic in thinking we can use this system for dependable animal trace-back
to farm of origin, in case of a disease outbreak.
“The problem with using a published open standard like ISO 11784/85
for something that’s needed to provide unique or secure ID is that it won’t work. It would be like our government
publishing the standard for dollar bills, telling people what paper to use, what color ink, etc. so anyone could do it,”
There are questions about cost (both to the individuals who must conform, and to the taxpayer) and the huge
expansion of bureaucracy the NAIS would spawn. The regulations will also be difficult to enforce. There are concerns about
having more government intrusions and more control over animal agriculture and horse ownership, and whether the sweeping changes
proposed by the NAIS plan are constitutional. Some lawyers are saying that it violates the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments
(protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and protection of property rights and other fundamental rights). The
NAIS may also violate the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause (there are some religious groups who depend on
animal agriculture for their way of life and do not believe in using modern technology).
There were also concerns about
confidentiality of information on a government database accessible to anyone through the Freedom of Information Act, but there
are also concerns about the present plan for multiple private databases (which will charge a fee for this service); USDA lawyers
are presently looking into whether they have the authority to require animal owners to report information to a private entity.
NAIS has not actually become law. The National Farm Animal Identification Record Act (H.R. 1254) was introduced in the House
but has been sitting in committee for more than a year. USDA claims it can enforce the NAIS under the Animal Health Protection
Act of 2002, but that law does not provide for individual animal ID and tracking; it addresses import and export of animals,
interstate travel, quarantine areas and related programs. USDA is forging ahead on the NAIS program, but time will tell whether
they can actually make it mandatory.
THE PROBLEM OF DUPLICATE NUMBERS AND EASE OF COUNTERFEITING AND DUPLICATING ISO CHIPS
The drawback in using this type of chip in a national system for purposes of disease trace-back, bio-security
or unique ID for proof of ownership or theft prevention/loss recovery is that there is no guarantee of uniqueness of ID codes.
There are several ways ID codes can be undermined in any open system. Chips can be ordered factory-programmed, with desired
numbers. Some manufacturers also sell reprogrammable chips which are programmable by the user in the field, and indistinguishable
from factory programmed chips. Some can be reprogrammed as many times as the user desires, even after being implanted in an
animal. Thus anyone can change the ID numbers in an open system.
Since this is an open standard, even if the NAIS gets
its chips from selected manufacturers and distributes them through a single entity, this would not prevent ISO chips with
duplicate ID numbers from entering the market, since ISO does not enforce compliance with its standards. Three companies have
already announced that they will make ID codes to order when the ISO standard is put into place in this country—without
going through the Brussels bureaucracy to have the numbers assigned.
In the ISO system, corruption of the ID numbering
system is practically built-in. And even for manufacturers who adhere to the ISO honor code, ID numbers can be recycled every
33 years. This is no problem for cattle or pigs but might be a problem for longer lived animals such as horses. The ISO system
also stipulates a two year “transition” period (for any changes), which was adequate for the original purpose
such as food animals that were marketed within 2 years of life and cycled out of the system in that period of time. But this
doesn’t begin to address the ID needs for other animals such as horses or companion animals.
This spring Barbara
Masin attended a USDA/APHIS hearing on microchips for pets—the purpose of which was looking at changing the present
ID system (the 125 kHz “American” chip already in use) to the ISO 134.2 kHz ISO system. After the meeting she
gave a demonstration showing how it is easy to reprogram the ISO standard chip with any number you want.
three people from the USDA and a number of speakers from the companion animal community (various interest groups that represent
veterinary organizations, animal shelter organizations, local shelters), and one person from the American Horse Council—
Amy Mann—who spoke on why she thought companion animals should have the same ISO chips as horses. I spoke there, and
after everyone finished speaking, I gave the demo,” says Masin.
She showed that the ISO chips—whether programmed
from the factory, or the OTP (one-time programmable chips that come blank and can be programmed once) or the reprogrammable
ones where you can change the number after it’s in the animal—are visually indistinguishable; they look identical.
You also can’t tell them apart with a scanner because they all read the same way.
“There are only two ways
to tell the difference. You can dig it out of the animal and have it subjected to microscopic destructive analysis (which
is very expensive). Or, if you happen to have the right kind of programmer and the chip doesn’t have a password on it,
you can tell. I had several standard ISO chips made by various companies, preprogrammed. I also had reprogrammable chips.
I shuffled them around and people could not tell the difference.”
She also had a couple of chips inserted in stuffed
animals, and used a programmer (about the size of a deck of cards) to counterfeit (clone) one of the chips. “I scanned
the chip in one animal, and the programmer stored the ID number. Then I passed the little programmer over the animal with
the programmable chip and duplicated that number. So you don’t even have to key in the number; you just scan one chip
and essentially put that number in the other one,” she explains. Anyone with a programmer could make other animals pass
for the one with the original number.
The programmers are not expensive. Depending on where you get them, they can be purchased
for as low as $160 to $200. “There are ads in various European publications and websites stating they can supply reprogrammable
microchips and low-cost programmers. There are classified ads in newspapers offering low cost confidential provision for duplication
of ID numbers,” says Masin.
An ad that appeared in the largest Swedish morning paper translates as follows: “We
offer a new chip service. We will change the ID number of the Kennel type chip according to your wishes. Inexpensive. Easy.
Fast. Total discretion. Also sale of ISO programming units.” A Spanish language ad in the veterinary publication VETECOM
reads: “Specialists in animal accessories. Collars, muzzles...ISO reprogrammable transponders. You can encode all the
ID numbers you require as often as you like. Can even be reprogrammed inside the animal. Conforms with ISO Standards 11784
and 11785. Compatible with all reader systems. Can be used in every kind of animal. Also readers for reprogramming.”
Thus anyone who wanted to could use this ISO system to their own advantage, for various purposes.
The chips themselves
are not very expensive. “If you buy them through a vet you might pay top dollar, but in an industrial market they are
less than $5,” says Masin. “I could take a $5 chip and put it in a horse that looks like a valuable animal and,
in essence, I’ve cloned the champion because my horse has its number. An animal from another country could be made to
look like one that came from the U.S. or vice versa,” she says.
“A person could keep several look-alike animals
and register only one, or claim health insurance coverage for 10 animals while taking out a policy on only one. Some jurisdictions
require chips as proof of payment for horse vaccination requirements. With ISO 11784/85 chips, horse owners could have just
one horse vaccinated while 9 others sport the same identity. By using a WORM (write many, read many) chip that can be reprogrammed
as many times as desired, the same animal can change identities throughout its life. In jurisdictions with a ‘dangerous
dog’ law that requires an animal to be put down after it bites three times, such a dog could easily have its identity
changed by an unscrupulous owner,” says Masin.
Given enough time and money, people can duplicate anything, though
it may take more effort to crack a secure system, depending on how high the hurdles are. “With the ISO standard, there
is no hurdle. The standard itself allows duplication of a chip 8 times. There are many vendors, including us, that sell reprogrammable
chips. The ISO standard stipulates this because if an ear tag falls off, livestock owners want to give that animal the same
number again. If you are restricted to preprogrammed chips you’d be looking at having to go to a wafer fab plant, and
they have lead times of six months or longer for computer chips,” she explains.
Another thing to consider, in choosing
this system for the NAIS, is that by using the ISO microchip system, we are building in impending obsolescence. The ISO-based
system is static and precludes the use of new technologies and advancements because the technical parameters of this chip
are rigidly defined. The ISO standard 11784/85, as defined, leaves no room for innovation and improvement. If technological
advancements become available, the USDA’s NAIS (and people who chip their horses with this system) will be confronted
with a difficult choice. They can continue with out-moded technology or junk this standard and begin a new process of standardization
(which took more than 5 years for the current ISO standard) for the new technology for a national system.
Jim Gowan, ESWG
member representing the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, says the microchip issue was one of several things his group
questioned about the ESWG’s recommendations to USDA and the horse industry. “Chips can be replaced, removed or
changed. With today’s technology, how long will microchips be the system of choice? Maybe we don’t want to be
locked into this, with chips in all our horses. If something better and more feasible comes along, then we’d have to
switch systems and that could be very costly,” he says.
“I think ultimately the best means of ID will probably
be instant DNA typing. You can’t tamper with that. If you have a horse entered in an event or race (or traveling across
a state line) you would simply prick the horse, take the blood, put it in a scanner or reader, and it would instantly match
that horse with its information,” he says. This could be a simpler, more foolproof system, and might alleviate some
of the political behind-the-scenes push from vested interests who stand to gain from having all livestock producers and horse
owners ID their animals.
THE FLAWS IN THE SYSTEM ARE RECOGNIZED IN EUROPE; WE NEED TO ALSO RECOGNIZE THEM HERE
This is not the “universal” international system that USDA and the ESWG are telling us it is. More
than 60 countries besides the USA have not adopted the 134.2 kHz system, and some of the countries that use it are not happy
When it became clear what some of the problems were with this system—especially for unique animal ID—and
where the expansion in this market was heading, there was an official complaint by the Russian standards organization (Gosstandart).
They made a formal motion requesting that IS0 11784/ll785 be repealed. According to Masin, the Russians said, “There’s
a problem here. We don’t have unique ID. This standard is being sold as something that claims to provide unique ID,
but it can’t. It’s two mutually incompatible technologies in one standard.” They submitted a long list of
issues and said, “Based on these flaws with the standard, which we believe are substantial, this standard should be
retracted and sent back to the working groups so it can be fixed.”
The Spanish Veterinary Association also filed
a formal complaint with ISO, and the Australian Veterinary Association published an item in its official bulletin outlining
problems with the standard. Their list of problems included read distance (which is shorter than other chips being used in
Australia), ISO standards not taking into consideration longer life spans of horses and pets, uniqueness of numbers not guaranteed,
etc. “There were so many complaints and formal objections that finally the highly unusual step was taken to put these
standards to a vote,” says Masin.
The major flaws with the ISO 11784/85 system include the fact that this “standard”
is actually two systems in one. The ISO process is based on the work of a committee, and almost always the result of compromise.
With a committee involving manufacturers with high-stakes market interests this can be a lengthy political process, with results
based on compromises rather than on things like performance, cost control or technical feasibility. At present there are two
very different designs involved in the low frequency 134.2 kHz ISO standard chips. Even though only one company markets one
type (every other company in the business markets some version of the other type), a political compromise stipulates that
the ISO standard incorporate both technologies, which lowers the read speed performance and reliability of the readings. This
makes the resulting readers less efficient and more costly than those designed to read a single type of technology.
flaws with the ISO 11784/85 standard are its inability to ensure unique ID codes. Being an open standard (in the public domain),
it relies on an honor system—with all manufacturers agreeing on who manufactures which numbers, to prevent duplicates.
But without legal teeth in the form of patents to thwart production of unsanctioned chips, the ISO standard is susceptible
to compromise by manufacturers. There is no manufacturer accountability.
There is also the problem of transponder performance.
Neither IS0 11784 or 11785 stipulates any minimum performance requirements for microchips suitable for use in animals. Thus
a chip that can read at “touching” distance would be fully ISO compliant. Small animal veterinarians around the
world have repeatedly expressed strong reservations about systems with such short reading distances and users in the livestock
business (and horses) need even greater read range in order for microchips to be effective for them. Thus being ISO compliant
is no guarantee of suitability for any given RFID product for use in animals.
So ultimately this was put to a vote in the
SC group for that standard, says Masin. “It was a highly political process and very contentious. This group had their
own problems with ‘hanging and dimpled chads’ in their vote. Only these were not chads; they were X’s on
paper. But they had trouble seeing which columns the X’s were in! They did revotes and recounts. Each vote/recount yielded
more votes against the standard, but the last count, which we still believe was incorrect, showed 50 percent of the nations
for it and 50 percent against. It was a tie. The way the ISO system works, for an existing standard to go back to committee
to be retracted, it has to be at least 50 percent plus 1 vote against the standard. So it was very close. We believe that
the entities responsible for doing the counting were beneficiaries of one of the companies that was in favor of having the
standard stay as it was,” says Masin.
“Essentially it was short by one vote of having the standard cancelled.
So if people say it’s a great international standard, this is not true. In the ISO voting group, half the countries
at the national standards level said this is a bad standard. They realize this system is open to fraud,” explains Masin.
WWHAT ABOUT U.S. HORSES TRAVELING TO OTHER COUNTRIES?
One of the arguments we hear as to why our horse industry should use the ISO 11784/85 chips is that this is
necessary for international travel. This might be true if horses in the U.S. were considered food animals and were going to
another country for human consumption, but the U.S. horses traveling internationally are doing so for sport or breeding purposes
and by some definitions would fall into the classification of companion animals, says Masin.
Recent legislation passed
in Europe (the “Pet Passport Law”) mentions the types of microchips that may be used. Airports in all European
Union nations, including the UK, are required to have readers on hand that are capable of reading Trovan ID-100 chips and
125 kHz unencrypted chips. “Today there are laws in place in the European Union, Japan and Australia—the only
jurisdictions that require microchips for companion animals—and all of them make provisions for 125 kHz chips (which
is the U.S. basis for horses today) to be read. There is a 125 kHz encrypted chip which is not used in horses (but used in
cats and dogs) that is not accommodated, but the ones used in horses (the unencrypted AVID 125 chip, Destron 125 chip, and
128 kHz Trovan chip) are all accommodated,” explains Masin. Basically, if the concern is being able to get your horse
into one of these jurisdictions that require chips, there is no problem; they are accepted with the chips they already have.
WHY IS USDA PUSHING FOR THE ISO 11784/85 SYSTEM AND WHY IS THE ESWG GOING ALONG WITH THIS?
People who are aware of problems with the ISO system are wondering why the USDA is dictating the use of this
particular kind of chip. “This chip is really not suitable,” says Masin. “When this was being discussed
for livestock, our ISO board approached the USDA and attempted to communicate with everyone from Anne Venneman (Secretary
of USDA at that time) on down, and we got no return calls. They were not interested in hearing this. I went to the USDA listening
sessions and offered to show them the problem with duplication possibilities, but they didn’t want to see it. The situation
is very political. There are certain people involved within the USDA who have very close ties to certain manufacturers. There
is an underlying agenda, unfortunately, and this is not for the good of the country,” says Masin.
is being touted as an anti-bioterrorism measure, but it won’t cut the mustard, especially using these chips. If USDA
or our livestock/horse industries tell people this is what they have to use, the first incidence of some serious disease outbreak
after the NAIS is implemented will spawn litigation. We have put the USDA on notice, in writing, that this is a problem (so
they are aware of it), and if they persist with their plans and use this type of ID anyway, it will be a field day for lawyers,”
If horse owners and livestock producers are forced into a national ID system and then find out it’s not
workable because of these flaws, there will be repercussions. There will also be more legal actions and suits by various microchip
companies. As one member of the Equine Species Working Group recently stated, “the legal actions will make this thing
implode, and then we all will have wasted our time and money working on this.”
The flaws have been well documented,
as far back as 1995, says Masin. “It’s very unfortunate that when the discussion at USDA was happening for the
livestock standard, it wasn’t an open discussion. Listening sessions were crowd control type; USDA didn’t want
to see any information against the system and didn’t respond to efforts to show them what was actually going on in other
countries,” she says. There are still many people who are not aware that this is a poor system and that other countries
are unhappy with it.
The frustrating thing about this whole issue is that USDA (and even certain members of the ESWG) seem
to want to ignore the fact there are problems, and want to press on with convincing everyone that this is the best system
for livestock and horses in the U.S.