Cross-Sectional Survey of Horse Owners to Assess Their Knowledge and Use of Biosecurity Practices for Equine Infectious Diseases in the United States

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Horses are transported in the United States more than any other livestock species and co-mingle at various events; therefore, they are considered to be at an increased risk for infectious disease transmission. The fragmented movement of horses combined with numerous sites of co-mingling makes tracing the potential spread of a disease outbreak a necessary part of an infection control plan, both locally and nationally. The cross-movement of personnel with horses and the persistence of endemic diseases make biosecurity implementation an ongoing challenge. Although many of the risks for infection are known, there is limited documentation about the usefulness of prospective control measures. The objective of this survey was to determine horse owners’ understanding and knowledge of biosecurity practices for preventing infectious diseases in the United States. Questions covered owner demographic information, including horse use which was divided into 10 categories as follows: Pleasure/Trail Riding, Lessons/School, Western Show, English Show, Breeding, Farm/Ranch, Retired, Racing, Driving and Other. The survey was distributed by sending requests to a list of horse owner organizations, which then sent emails to their members. The email request described the survey and provided a website link to start the survey. A total of 2413 responses were collected. Analysis of the results included cross-tabulation to identify significant differences in biosecurity knowledge and awareness by horse use. Significant differences by horse use were identified for vaccination, biosecurity planning, use of isolation, disease risk, monitoring for diseases, co-mingling of horses, sanitation, medical decision making and health record requirements for horse events. In summary, the results suggest that most owners are not highly concerned about the risk of disease or the use of biosecurity. There are several biosecurity applications and techniques which can be increased and will benefit horse health and welfare. These include reliance on temperature monitoring, isolation of new horses at facilities, risks of horse mingling, entry requirements such as vaccination and health certificates at events, and an emphasis on having biosecurity plans for facilities and events where horses co-mingle. The information from this study will be used to create tools and information that horse owners and veterinarians can use to implement appropriate biosecurity practices for different types of horse uses and events.

White, N.; Pelzel-McCluskey, A. Cross-Sectional Survey of Horse Owners to Assess Their Knowledge and Use of Biosecurity Practices for Equine Infectious Diseases in the United States. Animals 2023, 13, 3550.