May 15, 2006


 Policy revisions on animal identification touch on data security

Posted May 1, 2006

The AVMA began to address the data security issues of future radiofrequency identification technology while consolidating several policies on animal identification into two.

On recommendation from the Council on Veterinary Service, the Executive Board adopted a Policy on Livestock Identification, and The Objectives and Key Elements Needed for Effective Electronic Identification of Companion Animals, Birds, and Equids.

In light of revised AVMA policy on the National Animal Identification System, the council believes the following statement more appropriately reflects the AVMA policies on identification of food production animals:

Policy on Livestock Identification
The AVMA believes that permanent, dependable identification of animals is essential for tracing origin and destination of food production animals in order to protect the nation's livestock industry and public health. The AVMA recommends that a high priority be placed on using alternatives to hot-iron branding, such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)/electronic technology.

The policy on electronic identification of companion animals, birds, and equids now incorporates portions of several other policies. The policy also adds: "The AVMA supports the establishment of a single source for companion animal microchip database information recovery."

The policy emphasizes that animal identification numbers must remain unique. And the numbers must not be changeable, in accordance with standard 11784/11785 of the International Organization for Standardization. The policy concludes with the following, fifth key element for effective electronic identification:

RFID technology will eventually include the market availability of advanced transponders having enhanced data storage and read-write capabilities. Data security issues exist and are being addressed by the ISO, such as through the development of ISO 14223. The AVMA would support the use of advanced transponders when an open-standard solution for advanced transponders exists.

Recently, the research paper "Is your cat infected with a computer virus?" caused concern that RFID tags in livestock might be able to transmit computer viruses. Researchers at Vrije University in the Netherlands published the paper in the proceedings of a conference of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The paper probably applies better to advanced transponders, though. Currently, RFID tags have just enough memory capacity to hold the unique identification numbers. And they have no internal power source, so they can only transmit a signal in response to a tag reader—and that signal travels a very short distance.

The two new AVMA policies on animal identification replace policies on Identification and Microchip Standards of Animals; The Objectives and Four Key Elements Needed for Effective Electronic Identification of Animals; Microchip Standards; and Electronic Identification—Veterinary Practices and Procedures Guidelines for Companion Animals, Birds, and Equids.

The National Institute for Animal Agriculture's Equine ID Subcommittee has also expressed support for the new objectives and key elements for electronic identification of companion animals, birds, and equids.