OLYMPIA — A bill closing an exemption on veterinary inspections of livestock brought into Washington was signed into law March 27, aligning the state with federal laws intended to increase disease traceability.
The state typically requires imported livestock to undergo a veterinary inspection verifying the animals meet Washington’s health requirements. Under current law, livestock are exempt from inspection if the animal reaches a feedlot, slaughter plant or livestock market within 12 hours.
Sponsored by Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, the new law closes this exemption for animals being delivered to restricted feedlots to prepare for slaughter, though it does not create new regulations for animals sent straight to slaughter plants or livestock markets.
The legislation was created at the request of the state Department of Agriculture and members of the cattle industry came to Warnick with concerns that improperly inspected cattle could spread diseases that would then be more difficult to trace. The United States Department of Agriculture removed a similar exemption in federal regulations in 2013.
“I want to be sure our state is doing everything it can to protect our food supply,” added Warnick. “Making sure we know where animals are coming from and their health is critical. We’ve had instances where those using this exemption haven’t followed the rules and that puts us all at risk.”
Warnick said she recalls one such scare several years ago that her bill would prevent from occurring.
“There were cattle brought in that were destined for slaughter, but for some reason the truckload was diverted and they were turned out to pasture,” Warnick said. “That was a situation that could have been devastating if those cattle that had been brought in for slaughter and they had some sort of communicable disease.”
Though the specific incident did not result in disaster, it’s a risk that should be avoided, Warnick said.
The law will be effective 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which was March 8.