Virginia Livestock Welfare Bill Becomes Law

A Virginia bill amending the state's animal welfare code to include specific horse care practices was signed into law in late March.

HB 1541 requires horse owners to provide their animals with feed to prevent malnutrition, water to prevent dehydration, and veterinary care to prevent impairment of health or physical function. The measure defines normal horse keeping practices and insulates owners from unfounded animal neglect complaints lodged by individuals unfamiliar with customary horse keeping procedures.

The bill initially drew criticism from some Virginia equine welfare operations on the grounds that the measure stripped cruelty codes from the statute and replaced them with the care standards, said Susan White, Richmond region director of the United States Equine Rescue League.

"The cruelty codes stay in place," White clarified. "What this law does is allow animal welfare officers to intervene sooner."

In a written statement, Lindsay Reames, assistant director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said livestock will benefit from the new law.

"We believe that this law will demonstrate our farmers' commitment to the welfare of agricultural animals," Reames said.

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell signed the bill into law on March 28, said McDonnell's Press Secretary Jeff Caldwell.

The law goes into effect on July 1, Caldwell said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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