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Swamp fever scare sparks prosecution; Claim horses did not have documentation.

Byline: Dave Black

AHORSE dealer at the centre of a scare over a rare and incurable disease is being prosecuted by animal health watchdogs for allegedly breaching European import laws.

Businessman John Hedley Graham, 33, is accused of failing to comply with EU regulations in relation to three horses which he imported from Holland to his stables in Northumberland last year.

It is alleged the animals didn't have the identification document required under the Horse Passport Regulations 2009 and the Commission Regulations.

One of the three horses had to be destroyed after it was found to have the Equine Infectious Anaemia virus - more commonly known as swamp fever - at the stables in Lintonville, Ashington.

The three horses were part of a consignment of six which Mr Graham imported from Amsterdam in August. Blood tests carried out at Ashington by Defra officials revealed one of them was infected with swamp fever. The Defra checks also allegedly showed three of the animals didn't have the correct horse passports under EU regulations.

The discovery of the virus led to a 200-metre restriction zone being thrown around the site, on the outskirts of Ashington, and 16 other horses being put in quarantine.

It sparked a major alert across the country. It was only the second outbreak of swamp fever in the UK in 30 years, after two infected horses were destroyed in Wiltshire in January of last year. The Journal revealed in September how warning signs had been posted around the Lintonville stables reading 'Equine Disease - Do Not Exercise Horses In This Area'.

The EIA virus is highly contagious for other horses as well as mules and donkeys, and is spread by blood-sucking flies. It causes fever, anaemia, emaciation and finally death. As horses remain infected for life, the only course of action is humane destruction.

The all-clear was finally given last December, following a 90-day restriction order, and the yard re-opened. None of the other horses in the yard were found to be infected. However, the discovery of the allegedly deficient horse passports has led to Mr Graham being prosecuted by the county council's trading standards department, which is the enforcement agency. Yesterday Mr Graham, who lives in Woodhorn Road, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, where he runs a carpet business, failed to appear before magistrates in Bedlington to answer the charges. The case was adjourned until next month.

He is charged with three counts of failing to ensure that a microchipped horse imported from Holland between August 14 and 15 last year had the identification document required under the EU regulations. The measures aim to improve the traceability of animals being moved across Europe in the event of any disease outbreak.

Last year's swamp fever scare was described by the World Horse Welfare charity as 'a huge wake-up call' and a sign of a growing threat to the UK horse population.


SCARE Signs warning of the restriction zone after a horse in the North East was found to be infected with swamp fever
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 29, 2011
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