Reclassification Of The Horse Is Addressed

The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, in a "white paper" issued to its state association members and the media, is urging any states that may consider changes in the legal definition of the horse to look at the consequences of such action. It follows a similar document issued in early July by the American Horse Council and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

The white paper--a report on an issue--from TOBA suggests that changes in the definition of the horse from livestock to companion animal or nonfood animal could impact financing from the United States Department of Agriculture, and also have liability and tax ramifications for horse owners and breeders. TOBA president Drew Couto said the document was disseminated for information purposes only and is not a position paper.

"All we're saying is that when confronted with the issue, make sure you understand its impact on other issues," Couto said. "We're not saying, 'Don't do it,' but be sure to look at the consequences."

Generally, proposed changes in the legal definition of the horse stem from animal-rights groups that believe racehorses are not properly cared for when their racing careers are over, and that they need more protection under the law. TOBA apparently does not quarrel with that intention.

"We're saying it's a more complex issue than having a sympathetic concern for the horse," Couto said. "I think our industry has a history of showing concern, and it's doing much more now than before for retired racehorses."

The TOBA white paper says, in part: "Because horses have historically been classified as livestock, and are in fact livestock, a hastily altered classification of the horse, simply done to appease often misinformed critics, could have a devastating impact on Thoroughbred racing and breeding interests."

The document provided by the AHC and the AAEP also addresses the definition of the horse and, like the TOBA white paper, only suggests that changes in legislation be carefully considered. Neither one provides a list of states that are considering changes in their laws, and neither makes reference to California, which in November will ask voters whether the sale of horses for slaughter should be banned.

Jim Cullen, director of communications for TOBA, said the organization's white paper did not stem from the California ballot initiative, which would prohibit the sale of horse meat for human consumption. He said TOBA is merely addressing concerns that have developed over the last several years.

The AHC and the AAEP note that, if horses are redefined as non-livestock, some anti-cruelty laws no longer would apply to them, and that federal and state taxes for horse operations could increase because commercial horse owners and breeders would not be treated as farmers, as they are now. The AHC has scheduled an educational session on the topic at its annual meeting Sept. 19-22 in Washington, D.C.

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