Sunday, November 28, 2010

Imported Horses Face Removal Or Death

At 18, Carl der Dritte is a horse in his golden years. Yet he’s Adriana Zerafa’s best horse, the one she planned to train and ride in the highest levels of equestrian competition. But plans for Carl der Dritte have changed. The dressage stallion was imported from France in early November and has been in quarantine since. And if he isn’t returned to Europe by next Friday, Carl der Dritte will be destroyed. The same is true for another of Zerafa’s stallions, a 7- year-old named Positif de Blonde. The horses don’t have the proper paperwork. And the rules and regulations set out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which oversees the importation of live animals, are clear. “I just didn’t plan on this,” a devastated Zerafa told the Star from the stable her family recently purchased near Mono. She said she doesn’t know what she’ll do if the horses are put down. “For now I just go day-to-day.”

The CFIA has strict protocol around importing horses to prevent the spread of equine metritis, a contagious venereal disease. It’s never been transmitted in Canada and the regulatory body wants to keep it that way. “It could be devastating for other horse owners,” Marilyn Taylor, a spokeswoman for the CFIA, said of an outbreak. “As a regulator we can appear heavy handed. But if something were to go wrong, fingers would be pointed at us first.” Zerafa, 21, was born in Canada but has been living in France since she was a small child. Her family returned to Canada and she has hopes of trying out for the national team some day. “She has devoted her life to riding,” Paola Lugari-Zerafa said of her daughter, a Prix St. Georges level dressage rider.

Lugari-Zerafa paid $60,000 to have the horses brought from France to Canada. The importer she hired arranged travel and applied for the necessary permits. For reasons unknown to her, the importer brought the stallions into Canada on temporary permits, claiming they were to be shown at the recent Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, she said. “I am not an expert in the transportation of horses, I am a horse owner,” Lugari-Zerafa said. “If I trusted this man and paid him to transport my horses . . . it’s because I had to rely on him.” In all, they brought seven horses to Canada. Five have been released from quarantine at the importer’s government-approved facility. The two stallions remain. The last, a 16-year-old jumping horse, died inside. The importer could not be reached for comment. Zerafa said she has offered to put the stallions through whatever tests are necessary to obtain permanent permits. But she has been told the horses must be returned to Europe and reimported. She is worried that Carl der Dritte, already under stress from being in quarantine, won’t survive the trip back. Lugari-Zerafa said it makes no sense that the horses be put through the strain of more travel just because of paperwork. “It’s not logical,” she said. “But the bureaucrats, you cannot fight them. Even if you’re right.”

*The Toronto Star