07/21/2006 12:00AM

Preparing for that Category 3


Within a matter of weeks, Florida will head into the prime time hurricane season. Hurricanes did no damage to Marion County, Florida's Thoroughbred heartland, last year, but in 2004 there were two major storms that rambled through the county. The American Association of Equine Practitioners has an emergency and disaster preparedness committee, and the following are some of its recommendations.

* Have some sort of descriptive mechanism for identifying individual horses, especially foals. The equine passport described below is worthy of consideration in this regard.

* Check out pastures and fences and substitute emergency stabling. Consider the potential danger of grouping horses who were previously unknown to one another.

* Create a supply area for the type of feed and hay that your horses have been accustomed to.

* Should the threat be so great that it calls for an evacuation, then it is advisable to get your necessary shots, especially Coggins, immediately updated so that your horse can move interstate without being quarantined or restricted.

For complete information on emergency matters related to Florida, including emergency shelter locations, go to the website of the Florida Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Industry, at www.doacs.state.fl.us/ai. Or, call (850) 410-0900.

Equine passport a time saver

The department of agriculture has developed an equine passport program that is designed to eliminate paperwork and bureaucratic delays when shipping horses in and out of Florida, especially in times of emergency.

The equine passport states the owner of the horse, the domicile of the horse, and communication links to that domicile. It also lists the horse's regular veterinarian and his phone number. The passport, actually a plastic card much like a state driver's license, has a photo I.D., a description, and a birth date of the horse, the dates of the required tests and shots, and the effective date of the passport as well as its expiration date.

The fee for the passport is $15 for the first horse on an application and $5 for each subsequent horse on the application. The applications may be obtained by contacting the the agriculture departments consumer services at (863) 519-8507.

"There are 13 states currently signed on to the program," said Dr. John Irby, DVM with the agriculture department. "These include the bordering states of Florida - Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia. Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia are also on the list."

Kentucky, according to Irby, has to modify some of its own animal health statutes and regulations before joining the pact, and he anticipates that this will happen soon.

A way to ID horses

Racehorses seldom get lost or have the freedom to go astray, but in times of disaster fences are often vulnerable. The Humane Society of Marion County has a developed a program that permanently tags and identifies horses.

July 31 has been designated as registration day. On that date and for $35 your horse can have an identifying microchip installed in the neck, and the horse's name will be entered into a national registry. This will be done at the Humane Society's Marion County facility at 701 NW 14th Road.

For additional info and equine transportation assistance, the phone number for the Humane Society is (352) 867-0544.