Is A Trail Rider, When Riding On Public Lands In Florida, Required To Have In His Or Her Possession A Current And Valid “Coggins Certificate”?

By: H.D. Haughton, JD June 1, 2015

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs (the “Department”) has been given the authority and responsibility by the Florida Legislature to control and eradicate Equine Infectious Anemia (“EIA”). The Department was required to formulate a program and promulgate all rules necessary for the successful implementation and administration of a comprehensive program for the control and eradication of EIA. The Department has adopted Rule 5C-18.010 (the “Rule”) which, among other things, requires owners of horses which are congregated at public or private assemblies to have in their possession a report of a negative EIA test conducted within the previous 12 months.

This report is commonly known as a Coggins Report or evidenced by a Coggins Certificate. Locations of such assemblies named in the Rule include: boarding stables and pastures, shows, exhibitions, fairs, rodeos, racetracks, trail rides and any other public or private assemblies. (While the word “assembly” is not defined in the Rule an acceptable dictionary definition would be; a meeting, congregation, get-together or gathering.) While these named “assemblies” would certainly apply to persons gathering at a trail head to commence a trail ride, they do not appear to include persons when actually participating on the trail ride.

Therefore a group of Southern Trailriders Association (“STA”) members collecting at a trailhead and preparing for a trail ride are suseptible to being asked by a state, federal or local law enforcement officer to produce a valid and current copy of a Coggins test for the horse(s) in their possession.

While the Department doesn’t have a Rule requiring a trail rider to have in his or her possession a Coggins Certificate when actually on the trail ride, other Florida Agencies do have such a requirement. The Agency which covers the major public lands on which STA members are likely to trail ride is the Florida Forest Service, which is a Division of the Department. This agency’s Rule 5I-4.003(14) states that “no person shall stage, ride or lead any horse on managed lands except on a designated trail or at a designated trailhead or designated access points.” Further that, “No person shall bring any horse onto managed lands without having in their possession a record of a current negative Coggins test for Equine Infectious Anemia as required by Rule 5C-18.010, F.A.C.”

This Rule is interpeted by Florida Forest Service law enforcement officers to require equestrians trail riding on Forest Service managed properties to have a Coggins Certificate in their possession at all times.

Many of the places Southern Trailriders conduct their trail rides are located on lands managed by the Forest Service including the Twin Rivers State Forest located next to McCulley Farms, the Wakulla State Forest and the Lake Talquin State Forest including the following Tracts: Bear Creek Tract, Joe Budd Tract (WMA), Fort Braden Tract, and the Rocky Comfort Tract, and therefore you must have a Coggins Certificate with you when riding in any of them. There is the following possible penalty for not doing so: “Any person violating or otherwise failing to comply with any of the provisions of Sections 589.011(4) or 589.071, F.S., or rules adopted pursuant to Section 589.011(4), F.S., is guilty of a non-criminal violation as defined in Section 775.08(3), F.S., punishable only by a fine not to exceed $500.00.

This is a link to all of the 37 state forests the Forest Service manages, and in which this Rule and the requirement to have a copy of your Coggins Certificate with you will apply.

In addition to the Florida Forest Service, three of the Florida Water Management Districts require a trail rider to have a proof of a negative Coggins test in their possession both when entering District property and when out on a trail ride. They are the South Florida Water Management District, the Suwannee River Water Management District, and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Finally, the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails has also adopted a Rule requiring a trail rider to have a proof of a negative Coggins test in their possession both when entering the properties managed by the Office and when out on a trail ride. Persons found in violation of this Rule can be fined $250.

There may be other agencies, departments or divisions in Florida which have a Rule with the same or similar requirements Therefore, it seems to be a prudent practice for STA members to make sure they have a copy of their Coggins with them both when assembling for a trail ride and when actually out on the trail.