Importing a horse into WA? What do I need to know about liver fluke and cattle tick?

Page last updated: Wednesday, 4 August 2021 - 5:50pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Western Australia is free from many diseases that financially impact livestock producers, including horse owners, in eastern Australia.

To ensure WA remains free of these diseases, import restrictions, treatments and testing protocols are in place for horses entering WA.

These import restrictions, treatments and testing protocols are legally underpinned by the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 and the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Regulations 2013.

Importing horses into WA: a four-step process

Importing a horse into WA is a four-step process with requirements pre-entry, at the border and two post-entry steps.

Most of the horses entering WA require liver fluke testing. Treatment and compliance with published protocols are necessary before being released from quarantine.

If the horse comes from a cattle tick area, or has travelled through a cattle tick area, the horse must undergo a cattle tick inspection and treatment.

Below is a detailed explanation of the requirements for liver fluke and cattle tick testing and treatments and the reasons these are necessary.

Why are imported horses tested and treated for liver fluke before and after entry to WA?

Liver fluke infects horses and can cause serious liver damage and reduce their general health and performance.

Liver fluke is a parasite of cattle, sheep, goats and camelids, which can cause severe disease, production loss and death.

If liver fluke became established in WA, the impacts on livestock producers would be enormous. Eradication would be almost impossible as the aquatic snail necessary to complete the parasite’s lifecycle is already present in WA.

Liver fluke infection in eastern Australia costs livestock owners more than $10 million a year on fluke drenches and a further $50–$80 million a year in lost production. The need to control liver fluke infections would also significantly increase the cost of worm control on WA’s livestock properties.

Liver fluke testing and treatment requirements

All horses imported into WA are required to be accompanied by a completed Health certificate for movement of horses into Western Australia (Form LB1) and documented evidence of compliance with pre-entry treatment and testing requirements.

Due to the lifecycle of liver fluke, meeting entry requirements to WA involves four steps:

  1. Pre-entry: a negative faecal test, within the 14 days before the horse(s) enter WA. The faecal sample must be taken by a registered veterinarian.
  2. Entry: a liver fluke drench treatment at the WA entry point (Kalgoorlie, Kununurra or Perth airport) or within 48 hours of arrival at the entry point. The treatment must be carried out by a registered veterinarian.
  3. Post-entry: a liver fluke drench treatment 21-35 days after entry to WA by a registered veterinarian, or supervised by a Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) Inspector.
  4. Post-entry: a liver fluke faecal test 90-100 days after entry. The faecal sample must be collected by a registered veterinarian or DPIRD Inspector.

If a commercial horse transporter imports the horse, they will organise the pre-entry and entry steps (steps 1 and 2) of the process.

Note that DPIRD specifies that an approved laboratory must be used for liver fluke testing. See the DPIRD web page approved laboratories for liver fluke testing.

Costs for treatment and testing

There are inspection, veterinary and laboratory costs for both pre-entry and post-entry treatments and testing as well as inspection charges at the WA entry point that need to be factored into the cost of importation. Costs are available on the importing livestock webpage.

Steps 1 and 2 in detail:

The DPIRD Inspector at the border entry point must be notified at least three days in advance of the arriving horse – see Form LB1 for details. The Inspector will check the identity of the horse and compliance with pre-entry conditions, ensure the absence of weed seeds and cattle tick, and issue documentation for the completion of required post-entry liver fluke treatment and testing. A horse will not be able to leave Kalgoorlie, Kununurra or Perth airport until these requirements have been fulfilled.

All road vehicles must be washed out at Kalgoorlie or Kununurra to ensure they are not carrying any weed seeds or liver fluke eggs.

Steps 3 and 4 in detail:

An imported horse will require further post-entry treatment and testing for liver fluke. The person in control of the imported horse at the entry point will be issued with a Direction to Move Stock for Treatment and Testing and this will also be mailed to the address on Form LB1 of the responsible party. The Direction Notice is a legally binding document.

The Direction Notice requires that a horse is:

  • treated for liver fluke 21–35 days after entry
  • tested for liver fluke by a faecal test 90–100 days after entry
  • kept on the property nominated on the Direction Notice unless a Permit to Move has been issued by an inspector
  • kept on ‘high and dry ground’ away from waterways that may harbour the aquatic snail necessary for the liver fluke lifecycle and that all manure is collected and either correctly composted or deep buried.

Responsibilities when a horse is under a Direction Notice

If a horse needs to be moved for any reason while under a Direction Notice, a Permit to Move must be obtained from the DPIRD Inspector listed on the Direction Notice. The person in charge of the horse at the destination must be made aware of and comply with the conditions of the Direction Notice.

If the horse is sold while under a Direction Notice, the previous responsible person must inform the new owner of the horse’s liver fluke status and provide them with the Direction Notice or a copy of it. The DPIRD Inspector listed on the Notice must also be contacted and updated about any changes in responsibility for the horse.

The owner of the horse, or the owner's agent while the horse is in WA, is responsible for meeting all the costs associated with required testing and treatment of imported horses.

Contact information

Bruce Twentyman
+61 (0)8 9363 4127