Equine Industry Welfare Summit 1998

The Kentucky Horse Council's inaugural Equine Industry Summit, the only one of its kind in Kentucky, was designed to involve the whole horse industry in discussing common issues and opportunities to work together for the good of the industry. Held at the Kentucky Horse Park, this first Equine Welfare Summit had a panel which included Steven Ralls, American Horse Council, speaking on national legislation pertinent to the horse industry; Milt Toby, Kentucky Horse Council Legislative Committee, speaking on Kentucky legislation; and Kentucky Representative Royce Adams, speaking from a Legislator's perspective on the issues facing the equine industry.

The panel felt current laws concerning animal cruelty have “no teeth.” Toby commented that when it comes to animal cruelty cases involving horses almost always carry a misdemeanor judgment with a maximum fine of $500, and jail time of up to one year. Felonies in animal cruelty cases are restricted to fighting cocks and dogs. Toby encouraged the audience to check, and double check, all facts surrounding a cruelty case before charging the owner with cruelty. And if you do file a complaint, be prepared to testify in the case; if not, the case will almost certainly be thrown out of court.

Theft of horses valued under $300 is considered a misdemeanor while those valued over that are dealt with as a felony. As it currently stands, according to Toby, horses are considered property under the law. The same claims can be made to horses that can be made to anything considered property, such as a television set or an automobile. Theft cases involving horses are determined by the value of the horse under current law.

Recent legislation that has passed in Kentucky is the Veterinary Practice Act which regulates who can practice veterinary medicine on horses in the state. This legislation was set into place to protect horse owners from people who practice acupuncture, chiropractics, massage, etc. and who are not licensed to do so. Toby encouraged horse owners to find out as much about the person performing these services on your horse as possible in order to prevent any problems which may arise. Another bill which addresses the use of whips in racehorses was passed. Under the new law, the use of the whip has to be consistent throughout the race. The law also states where on the horse the whip may be used. Under this new law, a whip can't be used at the end of the race if the horse has no chance to win.

Toby said the problems with laws already on the books is that they are “simply not enforced.” The major reason for this is the lack of manpower in most cases. He noted that many Kentucky counties don't even have humane societies, and the ones that do usually don't have the funds to follow up on cruelty cases. Additionally, the fact that many laws concerning animal cruelty are not enforced it makes it more difficult to change existing laws that do work.

Representative Royce Adams said in order to change or introduce new laws effectively it's best to know who your legislator is, and know him on a personal level which insures your legislator knows who you are, and is willing to listen to your concerns. Adams also said in order for a bill to pass it must have support from the people. If there is a bill that you would like to see passed, it is wise to support it. Adams gave the example of Senate Bill 282, Cruelty to Animals in the Second Degree. This bill died in Kentucky's House of Representatives after passing the Senate simply because it didn't have the support it needed to pass. Adams said that the Kentucky Horse Council should have been behind this bill, and if it was, the bill would have had a good chance of passing. Royce concluded his talk by encouraging every attendee of the summit to become involved and to make sure his or her Representatives in Frankfort know who they are.

Deborah Taylor, former Kentucky Horse Council president, said the specialty license plate offering a horse on it will be available January 1999. This plate will be a specialty plate for the state of Kentucky just like the nature plates now available. The cost of this plate will be $60 per year, with $10 of that amount going to support the Kentucky Horse Council.

There were much support and enthusiasm among the audience of the Equine Welfare Summit. The audience voiced their opinions on how they felt there was nothing they could do in animal cruelty cases. Suggestions to these questions were offered, but the real concern was the need to pass and enforce laws which will protect animals from misuse and abuse.

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