Published: Sep 01, 2010 9:20 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 01, 2010 6:20 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today announced the arrest of an Indian River County woman who allegedly tried to conceal from authorities her two horses that were infected with Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).

Arrested by Bronson's Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE) was Regina Chesser, 56, of Fellsmere. She was charged with failure to report a dangerous transmissible disease, which is a second-degree felony.

Authorities allege that Chesser brought her horse "Dolly" to a Vero Beach veterinary clinic to be tested for EIA. When the test results were positive for EIA, authorities with the department's Division of Animal Industry attempted to contact Chesser only to find that she had given the alias Cheryl Hearndon with a false address and phone number to the clinic and used a an email address registered to a friend. The false information was given because Chesser believed "Dolly" was infected with the EIA virus.

The case was turned over to Bronson's Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement to initiate a criminal investigation of the matter. After an extensive search, Chesser's true identity and location were discovered. Authorities then learned that there were two horses on Chesser's property and subsequent testing showed that both of the horses were carriers of EIA.

Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is a viral disease of horses that may be characterized by acute and/or chronic recurring clinical signs, including fever, anemia, edema and a general weakness in some animals. Many horses have very mild symptoms and carry this virus undetected. All infected horses, including those that are asymptomatic, become carriers and are infectious for life. Infected animals must either be destroyed or remain permanently isolated from other horses to prevent transmission.

After her arrest for failing to report the disease, she was booked into the Indian River County Jail on $7,500 bond, and her horses were placed in quarantine.