Why The Paperwork? Coggins Testing and Health Certificates


When traveling between states or between barns and equestrian events, specific legal documents often must accompany your horse.

Kimberly S. Brown

A Coggins test is a blood test that samples a horse for the presence of equine infectious anemia (EIA), a virus similar to the human HIV virus--it is transmitted mostly by large biting flies, like horse or deer flies. A horse that tests positive to EIA may be actively infected or a carrier; in either case, the horse must be strictly quarantined for life away from other horses or destroyed.

In attempts to eradicate this disease in the horse population, regulations are enforced for horses crossing state lines. Some states require a negative Coggins test within 12 months, while others require testing within the preceding six-month period. Many boarding and show barns require a negative Coggins test for a horse to enter the premises.

Another document required for interstate travel is a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI). This health certificate, filled out following a veterinary exam, is meant to ensure that a horse has a clean bill of health and is not infected with a contagious disease--most notably, respiratory or skin ailments.

Most states require the CVI within 30 days of transport, but others only honor one that has been done in the 10 days prior to transport. Several states (Montana, Arizona and Oregon) additionally require a permit prior to entry; their state regulatory office must be contacted to issue approval and a permit number to include on the CVI.

Your veterinarian will have up-to-date information regarding time tables for specific State requirements.

Some states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia) currently accept an interstate equine passport that serves as shipping papers for a horse for six months following a veterinary health examination or until the expiration date of a Coggins test.

A horse hauled into Canada must be accompanied by a specialized international health certificate filled out by your veterinarian and endorsed by the USDA Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Each Canadian province has its own transportation department, similar to our state agencies, each with their own set of regulations.

In many Western states of the USA, horses that travel more than 75 miles from home must also have a brand inspection. This document certifies proof of ownership, regardless of whether a horse has a physical brand or tattoo or does not. A brand inspector reviews a bill of sale and registration, compares this information to the horse and its markings, then issues a temporary card or a laminated card that is good through your ownership of that horse.