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Retina Scanners in the Equine Industry


The technology I chose to research was equine retina scanners. An infrared camera takes pictures of the horse’s retina in order to identify a certain horse accurately. This process has, ‘”Accuracy is greater than 99.9 percent—far more so than the human fingerprint,” says Stewart” (Kane, 2011). Retina scanners were developed for humans in the 1980’s and later the technology was modified to be use on animals. The device is held near the eye where it takes pictures or in some of the modern, advanced models videos. “Once done, it converts the algorithm data to a 512-byte code and then to a 15-digit number” (Kane, 2011).I personally do not have any experience with retina scanners but I have had experience with microchips which can be easily changed along with mouth tattoos.

The technology is being used as a means to identify horses and their owners. “Reliable horse identification becomes especially critical in emergency situations. Lessons from Hurricane Andrew demonstrate that lack of permanent identification leads to theft and confusion over ownership as horses stray, are evacuated, or are otherwise separated from their owners”(Cordes, 2000). Horses that are worth several hundred thousand dollars can potentially be stolen or switched. “The scanner provides many identification benefits that a traditional tattoo or microchip does not, according to Varma” (Brown, 2009). A retina cannot be altered or changed, but tattoos and microchips can. Tattoos can be copied and forged onto another horse so that it could be substituted, allowing the ‘real’ horse to be stolen. I want to be an equine vet where I will have to use this technology to identify and register horses. Also, racetracks/ race horse owners will use this technology to prove ownership of the horse. Olympic horse owners will also use this technology in order to prove ownership and verify their horse. Many aspects of the horse industry that involve money and prestige will be using this method of technology to identify their horses. “At present, the iris scan is one of the most accurate, reliable, safe and effective of all existing ID methods for horses,”(Thomas, 2011). It does not involve surgery, sedation, nor does it cause pain to the horse. “There are reports of some microchips migrating from their original location” (Thomas, 2011). By the microchip not being in a usual place it can be missed since it is usually small. Even if the horse is chipped the scanner may not pick it up and most people are not going to scan every inch of a 2,000 pound animal. This technology is currently used on humans for verification purposes. It is used at places where security is critical such as nuclear power plants, military areas, and even some businesses have started to use this technology.

Some of the future uses of this technology will be to identify each race horse and the Olympic horses. “This is very noninvasive and gives a more accurate reading, as no two irises are the same,” she said. This iris identification technology is already being used for humans in secure government facilities and private companies. Varma expects the Thoroughbred industry will be the first to use this technology because of the value of the horses.”(Brown,  2009). Any horse that is valuable or any horse owner who has the monetary funds will have a retina scan and therefore an ID number. Aside from horses, dogs can also have retina scans. Military dogs and the dogs that help veterans or disabled people will have retina scans in case they ever become separated. Retina scans seem to be a very safe and effective means of identification for various species and will be implemented in several animal industries.


equine retina scanner

An infared camera scanning the retina of this horse for identification purposes.
This picture came from: http://media.oregonlive.com/pets_impact/photo/horseeyedjpg-fc00d4f9dab64306.jpg

Work Cited

Brown, Liz. (September 21, 2009). Iris Scan Horse Identification in the Works. Retrieved from http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=14942


Cordes, Tim. (2000). Equine Identification: The State of the Art. Retrieved from http://www.ivis.org/proceedings/aaep/2000/300.pdf


Kane, Ed. (April 1, 2011). Iris Scan Technology for Horses. Retrieved from http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/dvm/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=715258&sk=&date=&pageID=3


Thomas, Heather Smith. (December 2011). The Iris Scan: A New EyeD Identification For Horses. Retrieved from http://ctba.com/sites/ctba.com/files/images/2011/decmag/downonfarm.pdf