The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Maryland Horse Industry Board recently released the Mid-Atlantic Animal Import Center Feasibility Study, which identified the Midfield Cargo Complex of the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore Washington International Airport as the best potential site for the Center.

“The time it takes to ship a horse overseas begins from the time that animal leaves the barn to the time it plants its hoof in the soil of its new home. Adding a 5-15 hour van ride on top of the time in flight is not cost effective and causes additional stress on the animals being shipped,” said Agriculture Secretary Roger Richardson. “A permanent Mid-Atlantic Animal Import and Export Center could reduce the cost of shipment for horse owners and buyers, and reduce the stress on transported horses thereby increasing the overall condition and productivity of animals shipped overseas.”

Import/Export Stats
From 2002 to 2006, the U.S. imported an average of 40,000 horses per year, and exported an average of 52,000 per year. These include horses being sold as well as horses traveling for competitive purposes, later returning to their home country. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant & Health Inspection Services regulates the import and export of all animals and animal products, monitors the health of animals presented at any boarder, and facilitates international trade. Any horse that is to be imported or exported from the United States is required by federal law to be quarantined for specific periods of time. Currently, all imports and exports are conducted through three facilities in the U.S., located in New York, Miami, Florida and Los Angeles, CA – the latter being virtually irrelevant for the East Coast market. However, it is important to remember that the import and export of animals differ from country to country. Getting in touch with a freight service similar to Plexus Freight may be warranted if more information is needed about international import and export of animals and animal products between European countries.

The New York Animal Import Center handles imports for 3 international airports (JFK, Stewart and Newark, New Jersey Liberty Airport and can accommodate up to 125 horses, with October and December the busiest time periods. Interstate access is difficult and this facility is not considered “user friendly” by owners and brokers. Shipments arriving at JFK are limited to 15 horses; snow on the tarmac can further restrict cargo access. This is something people who run the show have to account for (be it with or other systems).

The original Miami Animal Import Center, with only 40 stalls, was deemed inadequate, closing in 2000. In 2004, a new, state-of-the art facility, self-contained import facility opened with 104 stalls, with space now limited only during the months of December and January. Capacity is now meeting the peak demand period of September through February, while the employees focus on facility maintenance and improvements during the hotter months, they are looking to improve the maintenance work by utilizing software solutions such as a computerized management system that can allow them to properly organize maintenance work in its entirety, ensuring all maintenance work is carried out correctly. The facility does not handle exports. The Miami Animal Import Center has direct access to Miami International Airport and monitors export shipments of horses at other airports and seaports in the south Florida area. The Los Angeles facility is notable in that it is a successful and profitable public-private venture that could be used as a model for a facility at BWI.

Currently, importers complain that, in addition to cost and inaccessibility, it is difficult to schedule space at the New York facility.

In December of 2006, the United States Department of Agriculture, which regulates and oversees all animal importation and exportation, issued a new rule proposal that establishes standards for permanent, privatelyowned quarantine facility for the permanent importation of horses. Such facilities would provide East Coast importers with options other than just New York and Miami.

According to the USDA: …[the] demand for quarantine services for horses exceeds the space available at existing facilities…We believe that allowing imported horses to be quarantined in permanent, privately owned quarantine facilities that meet [the new criteria] would facilitate the importation of horses while continuing to protect against the introduction of communicable diseases of horses.

Location, Location
The Baltimore-Washington International Airport’s Midfield Complex has it all:
~ direct access to airline runways;
~ is in a targeted trade zone;
~ has close proximity to multiple event zones (including the P.G. Equestrian Center, Fair Hill, New Jersey the Horse Park of New Jersey, Bucks County Horse Park , the Virginia Horse Center, Morven Park, and Great Meadow in Virginia, all of which together host over 400 events annually);
~ excellent transportation infrastructure, including easy access to five interstate highway, minutes to rail service and Port of Baltimore;
~ lower landing fee and man hour fees that other airports in similar markets;
~ direct nose-in access for freighter positions;
~ cost effective, efficient warehousing, transportation and distribution of air cargo;
~ air cargo ramps accommodating up to 24 aircraft;
~ the only U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service inspection gateway in the Mid-Atlantic region;
~ USDA/APHIS headquarters mere miles away, in Riverdale, MD;
~ USDA inspectors currently on premises;
~ U.S. Customs Services currently available 24/7;
~ five scheduled cargo airlines currently serving BWI, including Astar Air Cargo/ DHL, FedEx, Kitty Hawk, Mountain Air and UPS;
~ BWI is open 24/7 for landing and unloading of planes;
~ can meet all USDA requirements;
~ Maryland climate is moderate, allowing for easy travel year-round.

Is It Doable?
According to the study, Gus R. Douglas, Commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, wrote in a letter to the USDA: “Maryland is in a unique position to propose this facility. They have an airport that is acceptable… and they alone have the industry to support the additional facility.”

A BWI animal import/export center was deemed feasible if coupled with another entity such as a state laboratory or animal health center. Due to the seasonality of the shipment of horses, with the strongest peaks occurring between the months of December and January operating the facility jointly with another entity could better utilize staff, optimize operations, and create new jobs and economic impact for the region.

The Maryland horse industry is at a challenging cross roads. Whereas the race tracks and the race track breeders (both Thoroughbred and Standardbreds) have seen significant declines in numbers (and face certain extinction without slots), the rest of the horse industry in Maryland, the sport and pleasure segments, has been blossoming. As this issue of The Equiery indicates, the horse world is now truly global.

Wouldn’t the declines in the Maryland Thoroughbred and Standardbred industries undercut the potential success of an equine import/export facility?

The Equiery does not believe so. While Maryland’s racing industries may be declining, the tracks and breeding programs in the states surrounding Maryland are growing. An import/export facility would service not just Maryland, but a 13 state region from Atlanta to St. Louis to I-80 in the north. A BWI equine import/export facility would be a way for the State of Maryland to not only recapture some of that revenue lost to other states (capitalize on our competitors’ growth), but would also provide new jobs for the skilled labor pool we currently have.

With more than ten years of decline in the Maryland racing industry – even if slots pass, it is imperative that we find creative ways to back fill those lost jobs, and that we continue to seek out new ventures and new business opportunities. Thanks to our universities and our racing industry, Maryland has the scientific expertise, the skilled labor pool and the equine service infrastructure to easily support a animal health center/state lab/import-export facility. We simply need the will and the leadership to make it happen.

The study was funded by a combination of public and private, federal and State entities including the USDA through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Maryland Horse Industry Board, the Maryland Horse Industry Foundation and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. The study was conducted by the private firm Owl Creek Consulting of Berlin, MD in cooperation with the Business, Economic, and Community Outreach Network of the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University.