Update on Legislation Important to Horse Owners

During the Nov. 2 American Horse Council (AHC) Issues Forum held in Lexington, Ky., AHC President Jay Hickey reviewed legislation and regulations pending at the federal level that could affect the horse industry.

Riding on Public Lands

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced  Preserving our Equine Heritage on Public Lands Act (S. 2238) on Nov. 1. Senator Crapo introduced similar legislation in the last Congress. That legislation was known as the Right to Ride bill.

The new bill "recognizes the importance of saddle and pack stock in the settling, exploration, and recreation of our country by ensuring that the horse's historic and traditional use is recognized as our public lands are managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service," noted a press release from AHC.

Hickey said the bill requires the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to manage the federal lands under their jurisdiction "in a manner that preserves and facilitates the continued use and access of pack and saddle stock animals" on lands on which "there is a historical tradition" of use. The bill applies to the management of the National Park System, BLM lands, National Wildlife Refuge System land, and National Forest System land.

The AHC statement noted that the bill provides that such lands "shall remain open and accessible to the use of pack and saddle stock animals" where there is a tradition of use, but does not limit the federal agencies' ultimate authority to restrict such use, provided the agencies perform the review required under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Hickey said the bill would impose specific procedures that agencies must follow before any land is closed to use by horses. These procedures include advance notice of any proposed reduction in use in order to allow public comment, convening a public meeting near the area involved, and collaboration with various users during the process.

The bill directs the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to issue a policy within 180 days of enactment that defines the meaning of "historical tradition of the use of pack and saddle stock animals" on federal lands.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Hickey said the AHC supports this legislation and asks all recreational riders to contact their Senators and encourage them to act on it.

Equine Center

AHC President James J. Hickey, Jr., spoke on federal changes affecting the horse industry.

Equine Equity Act

This bill addresses depreciation on horses under federal tax law. According to the AHC, horses "must be held longer than other business assets to be subject to capital gains. Racehorse owners are required to make a decision regarding when to begin depreciating their racehorses that is not based on the expected racing life of the animals."

This bill was re-introduced on May 1 by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jim Bunning (R-KY), and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) as S.1251. This type of legislation has been introduced before.

According to the AHC, this bill will end the "disparate treatment" of horse industry investments versus other businesses under the federal tax code. Specifically the legislation would 1) make horses eligible for capital gains treatment after 12 months, similar to other business assets; and 2) place all racehorses in the three-year category for depreciation purposes.

Private Quarantine

The operation of permanent private quarantine facilities under strict USDA regulation was proposed four years ago, Hickey said. There are only three import facilities in the United States, which all foreign animals, including horses, have to go through for import. The AHC and other groups have been calling for USDA to republish the rule proposal in order to allow the establishment and operation of permanent, privately owned quarantine facilities for horses entering the country permanently.

These facilities would have to be approved by the USDA's Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) and would maintain the same level of biological security standards as current permanent facilities operated by APHIS. Although the facility would be privately owned, at least one APHIS representative would be at the facility to oversee the care of horses during normal working hours.

This will be particularly important when hundreds of horses will be coming from around the world for the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

See www.TheHorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=10772 for information on other topics covered at the Forum.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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