By Daniel Silliman
The animal was listed as a pet on the airline's manifest, and it was being transported in a large dog cage. But when customs officials took a look, they didn't find a dog, cat or hamster.
Instead, they found a horse.
The miniature, show-sized filly was being sent from Germany to Guatemala, and it was not properly permitted, when officials found the horse at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Tuesday.
Horses are categorized as "livestock," in the United States, and not as "pets," and livestock need permits to pass through.
"I think the guy just didn't know," said Mike Balero, spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "He wasn't concealing it. He just didn't have the [United States Department of Agriculture] permits."
A pet, being transported through the United States, is only required to have a record of shots. Livestock must pass inspection, ensuring the Department of Agriculture the animals are not infected with a variety of common and dangerous diseases.
In Germany, Balero said, there are a number of horse-to-human diseases which raise concerns of biological security, including morbillivirus, West Nile virus and ehrichiosis bacteria. They were also concerned about the possibility of African horse sickness. It can kill horses, mules and donkeys, with a fever, swelling, cardiac swelling and respiratory problems.
The miniature horse found in the dog crate appeared to be healthy, though. USDA vets kept the filly overnight, examining the animal and disinfecting the carrier.
The horse was given some hay and fresh water, put in a horse-sized cage and sent on to the Guatemala destination.
Balero said the customs officials do not know why the owner, who is not being named, wanted to take a miniature horse from Germany to the Central American country.
The owner was cited by customs on charges he violated animal cruelty laws.