Colorado Horse Owners Fight Back

Following a far-reaching campaign to educate citizens of Colorado on the dangers of reclassifying the horse as a companion animal, the state did not see this issue on the 2000 ballot as had been predicted. There was an abundance of animal rights activist activity in the state's recent history pushing for the reclassification, mainly for the purpose of preventing the sale of horses for slaughter and human consumption overseas.

The major concern of the horse industry was that if the horse were reclassified, equine research no longer would be federally funded (by the United States De-partment of Agriculture) as it is now, and would require additional private grants that are harder to obtain. If the research dollars were to disappear, equine researchers would be fighting for the same grants that the dog and cat specialists seek.

A warning of impending reclassification was the passing of an Estes Park, Colo., city ordinance in 1999 that made it illegal to exhibit an animal in an enclosure or tethered to an object. According to Libby Graham, executive director of the Colorado Horse Council (CoHoCo), there were no definitions attached to this ordinance. "The town has sympathetic administration in place now, so the horse shows, 4-H activities, and other events that feature animals are safe," she explains, "but that will be subject to change with each new election of town leaders."

Graham also explained that Boulder, Colo., in June 2000 became the first city in the nation to write into its municipal code that humans no longer own their animals, but are now animal guardians. She feels that the designation could have far-reaching effects.

Cindy Schonhotz, Animal Welfare Coordinator for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, agrees. "It doesn't really say in the ordinance whether it is all animals, or just companion animals," she said. "This really has our warning signs up that they're still coming to Colorado, and are working on the reclassification."

Schonhotz explained that attorneys claim the new designation of animal guardians in Boulder will not change anything, but until it is legally challenged, one can only surmise the effect on equine industry in the Boulder area.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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