Equine-Related Legislation Causes Controversy around the Country

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Horse silhouette2011 has already brought controversy in the horse world with several legislative items related to horses emerging at the state level.

Nebraska State Senator Tyson Larson wants to bring horse slaughter to his home state. In January, the newly-elected Republican introduced LB 305, a bill that would create a state meat inspection agency to allow processing and export of horse meat.

According to his website, Sen. Larson comes from a horse farming heritage, and his bill reflects an opinion that has become common among horse ranchers in western states: that horse owners and breeders need slaughter as a disposal option for unwanted horses. However, the vast majority of Americans—approximately 70%, according to a 2009 Public Opinion Strategies poll—oppose horse slaughter.

According to Sen. Larson, the state meat inspection agency “will allow these processors to meet the demand for horse processing, responding to the federal government’s disallowing funding for federal inspection of horse processing.” The federal government stopped funding horse meat inspection in 2007, effectively shutting down the industry without creating an outright ban of horse slaughter.

Read the full text of Nebraska LB 305 here.

A related bill introduced by Sen. Larson, LB 306, would require rescue facilities to accept any horse brought to them by individuals or law enforcement without exception, regardless of whether or not they have the resources to care for the animal. Rescues would face a fine for every animal turned away. Although the bill places an extra burden on horse rescue operation, it offers no opportunity for government funding of those rescues. According to Larson’s website, he believes the bill would contribute to “fostering a culture of humane treatment for animals.”

Nebraska rescue organizations aren’t buying it.

Valerie Hinderlider, president of a Nebraska rescue called Break Heart Ranch, was quoted in The Grand Island Independent as saying, “There’s a reason behind trying to make [horse rescues] the fall guys, to take us under and then say, ‘there’s nothing to do with the horses,’ and so slaughter would be the only option.”

Sen. Larson’s comments on the bill, published in the Lexington (Nebraska) Clipper-Herald appear to support Hinderlider’s assumption.

“Basically, [L.B. 306] would mandate that humane societies and horse rescue operations would have to accept a horse if one was presented to them, or they would face a class four misdemeanor,” said Larson. “I’m giving them an alternative. If they don’t want us to process horses, what are we supposed to do?”

Read the full text of LB 306 here.

Nebraska residents can contact their state legislators to weigh in on these bills. Visit NebraskaLegislature.gov to find your senator.

Meanwhile, Virginia is considering S.B. 1026, which is meant to outline the standards of care specifically for “agricultural animals that ensure accommodation for customary farming activities.” The bill amends the Code of Virginia to specify that owners of agricultural animals must provide “Feed to prevent emaciation” and “Water to prevent dehydration.”

Critics of the bill, which include many animal welfare organizations, say that this weakens Virginia’s existing animal protections by putting the standard of care down to the bare minimum. Supporters of the bill say that it prevents frivolous claims of cruelty and neglect by allowing for situations where a horse would not have access to feed or water, such as while being trailered.

The bill has passed the Virginia House of Delegates. Read the full text here.

Virginia residents can find their senators’ contact info at legis.state.va.us

Finally, Oregon horse owner Lindy Minton proposed a bill that would require any horses in the state for more than 30 days to have an “equine ownership certificate.” The bill has been effectively killed for the current session, but could re-emerge in the future. As written, the bill would require horse owners to have a certificate for each of their horses at a cost of no more than $100. It also outlines requirements for humane horse transportation, including requirements for trailer size as it relates to the horses in transport and mandatory rest times for long trips. Finally, the state of Oregon would be charged with keeping a registry of horse rescues, and rescue organizations would have to register with the state.

Minten stated that her goal was to help rescue organizations by weeding out the horse dealers posing as rescues. She also expressed that her bill was a working draft and she hoped that horse owners and rescuers would provide input to make it better. However, her bill was not well-received in the horse community and is not scheduled for discussion in the legislature.

Read the full text of the bill here.

24 COMMENTS

  1. I’d be willing to call his bluff. Some people would do anything for a buck even kill horses, makes one feel safe dosen’t it that some politicians are kind, caring people.

  2. This is terrible. How anyone could slaughter horses is sick. I really hope that this bill doesn’t get passed. Then I’d have to work really hard to get my parents to try to rescue and protect those poor horses.

  3. I understand why some people think that we need slaughterhouses for horses. If people were willing to look after their animals until they died, we wouldn’t have the problem of unwanted horses. Also, fining rescue groups because they won’t take in more animals is ridiculous! You can on care for so many animals on a piece of property. I think that the government should make a facility where it is hundreds of acres and people can turn their horses over for $100 and they go out on the range and live out their lives.

  4. I would like to see a poll of how many people are against horse slaughter post banning of slaughter in 2007. I bet that number has changed. As a veterinary student, cow/calf producer and hunter/jumper of 10 years, I have seen a change in opinion in my friends and colleagues in all areas from 2007 until now. I know several people who were against it and still are. I also know several people (including a vegan) who believes the overflux of horses is causing horse mistreatment and neglect to rise. Before, our country had control over how horse slaughter was performed. Now, people who don’t know what they are doing are doing it on the black market, or these horses get shipped to other countries where we have no say in what happens to them. Now, people that mean well take horses in without realizing the expense and time and knowledge that goes into properly caring for them and end up neglecting them. Now, horses are dropped of on people’s properties, at horse shows (or just put in other people’s horse trailers), or in deserts and back roads. Just because they are not being slaughtered doesn’t mean the welfare of the horse population has increased.

  5. People don’t understand that horse slaughter is needed for this industry. The thought of horse slaughter sounds aweful I do admit, but think of what people are doing now that slaughter is closed. People are taking horses to Mexico where they are slaughtered inhumanely, just lettin them run all around, and leaving them in a trailer to die. The government is using our money to pay for all of the unwanted horses. I have horses and without the market it is pointless to breed them if I wont make any money. By opening the slaughter up again the horses would be treated more humane than they are now. I feel bad for all of the horses that are running around because the slaughter is not opened.

  6. The unfortunate part in this whole scheme is the horses…they have to bear the inhumane treatment because somebody or come organization..breeds too many.. and they did not turn out to be a money maker..the key word here is money..and so.. they just dump them..the people breeding need to be held accountable for the many unwanted animals..then lets see what happens..and just an FYI..the horses are loaded into cattle vans..no food no water for days on end and then led off to be brutally killed..and thats OK..sounds like the same type of people who led the jews off trains..the outcome is the same..once again..a long lost quote..a Nation is judge by how well they treat their animals..wonder where the US stands..we are becoming a third world country fast

  7. Ok, breeders quit breeding. To penalize rescue operations is ridiculous, just like most laws pending. Right now, a rescue operation is under such scrutiny that it prohibits a lot of things that are needed. Granted, the economy has a lot to do with all of this but it’s always about money.
    Do you realize that by bringing back slaughter houses there will be no taxes paid..but local area’s will have to put out of their own pockets, clean up and reclaiming the land and water that is polluted, daily. Penalties, in the millions, will be assessed but never collected. Would you like to build next to a slaughter facility? Property value, it won’t increase, that’s for sure.
    Spose AQHA is behind all this too, guess where over breeding started, along with the race horse industry.
    There is never an easy solution, it’s never just one thing but a multitude of situations. You can’t just use compassion to rule your judgement, it should be a combination of compassion and logic.
    Americans do not raise horses for commercial use, so should not be treated as such.

  8. instead of forcing the rescue groups to take on horses they cant take care of, i think that senator should have to take them in on his own property and provide everything they need for the rest of the horses’ life. i mean, he’s a senator, he’s rich he could do it. horse slaughter, i know, is horrible to think about. but is it not worse to think of horses starving to death or being neglected by their owners due to providing for their children first cause the cost of horse care has went up so much? we all just see horses more as a pet and part of the family than livestock, so slaughter is just unbarable to think about. also, think about all the millions of pets, (dogs & cats), who get put to sleep every year due to being unwanted. nothing wrong with alot of them, just unwanted. does anyone ever try to stop that? it seems to me, that the main reason for all this “killing” horses, dogs, and cats, is overpopulation, which is our own fault!! stop over breeding trying to make a buck people!! get your animals “fixed”!!! these are living breathing caring loving creatures at stake. if all the breed organizations would put a stop on new registries for several years, or absolutely stop the breeding in their breed for several years, then that would slow down the ever growing over population. not to mention, none of us have ever had go threw starvation. but in other countries it happens. and horse slaughter provides for those who are literally starving. plus all the zoos feed horse meat to their big cats. what are they doing? for all we know, they have contracts with private farms or ranches to breed and butcher horses only to feed those big cats. has anyone ever thought about that? at least with slaughter houses open, the meat will be used by someone. there just needs to be very strict rules, regulations, and inspections at the slaughter houses. its just a lose/lose situation either way you look at it.

  9. I have followed the bills in Virginia and i have to say i was saddened by the fact that the Virginia Horse Council supported these bills. The fact that they may say someone could be prosecuted for not supplying feed or water why a horse is being trailered is irresponsible. The law that they support states that your only requirement for your livestock. Is to provide feed to prevent malnourishment and water to prevent dehydration. You are not required to provide potable water just a mud hole will do. You are not required to provide any shelter at any time and there is no mention of minimum space requirements. Commonsense would tell you not to leave a clipped horse out in a freezing rain without a blanket, with it head tied in a portable stall that does not let it turn around. But, according to to the new law that is just fine. You could leave a horse in that situation everyday 365 days a year. As long as you provide enough feed to prevent malnourishment and water to prevent dehydration that is OK. The Horse Council, along with The Farm Bureau and the Veterinary association are paving the way for CAFOs to come to Virginia. CAFOs are Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. They are being out lawed across the country for there inhumane treatment of Swine, Chickens and Veal. Smithfield the worlds largest pork producer in the world is headquartered in Virginia. They wanted this animal cruelty law changed and The Horse Council, The Farm Bureau ( Which is nothing more than an insurance company) and the VMA were more than glad to help. There has never been a conviction of a animal cruelty over turned by a higher court in Virginia and none of those convictions were done under the companion animal statue. As always these and other Lobbyist are tools for large corporations trying to get laws changed to benefit their bottom line.

  10. This is just disgusting, that a horse person is trying to support slaughter and promote it. Slaughter, as said in the article is just a way of DISPOSAL. A way for selfish people to gain monetary value out of their poor equine companions who have served them for so many years, yet somehow not useful to them. There are many other ways of disposal people, but guess what? It costs money; you won’t gain a penny out of it. It’s called euthanasia, and I’m sick and tired of seeing lame horses, old, skinny or with fractured bones end up in sale yards or auctions eventually taken to slaughter houses. The only thing that revolves around slaughter is money and animal welfare is considered to the very least. Irresponsible owners are being “rewarded” for not taking care of their horses and simply dumping them at slaughter houses or auctions. What would happen if the slaughter industry stops paying these people for their horses? After all they are doing them a favor, it is considered a “disposal” method and this money could be used for better transportation and better care of the animals before getting killed. I’m pretty sure slaughter houses would come to an end if that were to happen. Places near slaughter houses are not clean, and by no means healthy for the surrounding population. No slaughter company will improve animal care, nor will they follow proper animal care prior to slaughter, it costs too much money.
    Dear senator, how about improving the way your state takes care of animals? How about helping shelters, or even stopping irresponsible horse breeding AKA: Backyard Breeders? Horse owners should pay a fee per foal a year. Anything that will help reduces stupid and irresponsible breeding. Not promoting slaughter and making all these BYB produce young ugly horses that for sure will end up at slaughter; these people just run back home counting the money they made out of that poor horse they dumped. Of course they can always breed more horses and if no one buys, they can dump them at the Auction.

  11. We need slaughter. It is a necessary evil.
    The lawmakers need to listen to AQHA, and other in the industry who know what effect slaughter would have, and how it would help. People in the industry know more about things like this than the uninformed people who are not in the equine industry. People need to do the research.
    Slaughter provides a baseline price for the horse industry. It your horse has decent conformation, trained to ride/drive and has a good temper then the horse should sell above slaughter price. Not with no slaughter good horses are going cheaply because there is no way to know how to price them. High end horses (well bred TBs, reiners, champion show horses, etc.) still have a market, but it is the middle of the road (middle aged, been there done that, kid safe) horses that are falling through the cracks. Having slaughter would get rid of the low end horses (poor comformation, ill tempered) and bring the value of the middle of the road horses back up.
    In the United States slaughter was a several billion dollar industry. In economic times like this would provide much needed jobs. If we open slaughter plants we can have them regulated, and kept humane for the horses. Canada’a slaughter is humane but to get there the horses may be subjected to long trailer rides which can cause stress. In Mexico the horses face long trailer rides and unregulated slaughter. I’ve read reports of horses being stabbed to death, in Mexico. Wouldn’t humane, regulated slaughter in the U.S. be better than that?
    A captive bolt gun to the head is a quicker death than having the horse potentially starve to death if the owners cannot take care of the horse.
    There are also horses that are truly dangerous and cannot be trusted and are better off shipped to slaughter rather that have an unknowing person pick the horse at auction and get seriously injured.
    The BLM mustangs are another matter entirely. I think that they have a nice historical value, and we should keep some around. We do not need thousands of unadoptable horses in holding pens living off the taxpayer dollar. They are wind horses who are living out there lives with no purpose in pens, they would be better off dead. Keep some horses in the wild but periodically cull the herds so we do not have so many horses.

  12. 70% of Americans may be against slaughter houses, but I would guess that is the same majority who does NOT own horses, and does not have to deal with the problem. It’s funny how the horse lovers and owners are the ones who see the necessity as it stands. The non-horse-owners can afford to be sentimental and emotional about an issue they will never have to deal with.

  13. To the people who support horse slaughter, I am ashamed. Horses are not just toys that can be tossed to the side when they’ve lost their usefulness. They’re living animals and should be treated with respect. There needs to be a bill that supports horse rescue organizations; the fact that the bill would punish the horse rescue organizations for turning a horse away is total bull.

  14. I truly believe that there needs to be regulations on breeding horses not fit to breed. Take into account the Friesian breed. They are very particular on what horses meet their breeding regulations to be able to breed. More people need to be contious of what they are breeding. This would cut down on some of the horses that arean’t wanted. It isn’t the horses fault its the people who are at fault for over breeding. Unfortunately there are non horse people out there making decisions about what we horse people should do with our horses. We need to speak up and be more active and be contious of what is being produced.

  15. YOU CANT PLEASE EVERYONE, BUT YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT’S RIGHT AND WHAT’S BEST FOR THE ENTIRE EQUINE INDUSTRY. SUCH AS A FEW THINGS PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED, STOP BACKYARD BREEDERS. PUT STANDARDS AND QUALIFICATIONS ON THE HORSES THAT PEOPLE WANT TO BREED, (LIKE THE FRIESIANS), AND IF THEY DONT PASS “INSPECTION” CUT ‘EM. AND DONT LET THE MARES BE BRED EITHER, IF THEY DONT PASS “INSPECTION” AS WELL.
    THE COST OF FOOD AND CARE IS OUTRAGEOUS, AND THERE ARE THOSE OUT THERE WHO WILL LET THEM STARVE OR NOT GET FARRIER WORK, OR SEE THE VET, THAN PAY FOR WHAT THEY NEED. DO YOU REALLY THINK ITS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE HORSE WHO IS SO LAME WITH NAVICULAR TO LET IT SUFFER? OR ONE WHO HAS HAD A BAD EXPERIENCE, WITH LETS SAY MEN, THAT IT INJURES ANY MAN IT COMES INTO CONTACT WITH OUT OF PAST EVENTS, EVEN IF THAT MAN DID NOTHING TO IT? OR A BAD BITER, OR ONE THAT REARS CONSTANTLY TO TRY TO AVOID BEING RIDDEN WITH NOTHING PHYSICAL WRONG WITH IT, AND FLIP OVER AND INJURE ITS RIDER? DO YOU WANT A HORSE LIKE THAT? NOPE, AND NEITHER DO I.
    IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, CATTLE & SWINE RANCHES (AND CHICKEN FARMS) BREED JUST TO BUTCHER. ONLY TO BUTCHER FOR FOOD! AT LEAST IN THE EQUINE INDUSTRY, HORSES ARE BORN TO BE MORE, THAN JUST FOOD. LET’S FACE IT, SOME THAT ARE BORN JUST ARENT GOOD ONES FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER, SO THEY SHOULD BE “RID” OF. I KNOW ITS HARD TO SWALLOW. BUT WAKE UP PEOPLE AND SMELL THE ROSES!! DO WE WANT THE HORSE INDUSTRY TO CONTINUE BEING IN A SLUMP? I AGREE TOTALLY WITH ROCHERA FROM MN. WE NEED SLAUGHTER, IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. IT IS A NECCESSARY EVIL. SO LIKE I SAID BEFORE PEOPLE, ITS A LOSE/LOSE SITUATION. SO DEAL WITH IT.

  16. Trail rider has such a good point! It’s a lose/lose situation!
    I used to believe in “no kill” everything. But as I learn the harsh reality of what is going on in the horse world today, I see that lots of people want to say it’s inhumane to send a horse to slaughter, but I don’t see them shelling out millions upon millions to help with these horses well-being either. Yes there should be more exacting standards. Yes there should be help for these horses, BUT THERE ISN’T!!! And yes there should be a way to end a life of a horse that is in such a terrible state (physically OR MENTALLY) that no one wants to deal with it or help it! Horses are a dime a dozen these days, even registered animals ARE being given away for free because their owners cannot afford them!!!!
    I hate this topic, but it won’t ever go away!!!

  17. I agree with Nebraska’s Senator Larson wanting to bring horse slaughter to his state. By having state inspectors instead of federal, Nebraska would have control of all processing and exports. This should be happening in all states. I am a horse breeder and I love my horses and probably would never send one to slaughter, but slaughter should be an option to legally dispose of unwanted animals. It would also be a means of creating jobs and making money for those directly involved in both the horse industry and the processing business. Horses are just animals like cattle, sheep, swine, poultry and goats. There are processing plants for these animals so why not for horses?

  18. Coming from an analyst background, I’m a stickler for cause and effect. And this why the argument that we need slaughter to prevent horse neglect fails. Today you can take your horse to auctions all over the country and sell to kill buyers. There’s NOTHING stopping ANYONE from sending their horses to slaughter. And yet we’re seeing increased levels of neglect and surrender. But I thought slaughter prevented that????
    So what can we logically assume? We can assume that people who neglect or surrender their horses don’t see slaughter as an option! We can also assume, since slaughter is still an option, and the same number of US horses are being slaughtered today as we used to slaughter here when the US plants were open, that increases in neglect and surrender ARE NOT RELATED TO CLOSING THE US PLANTS. In fact, what it DOES indicate is that the effect of slaughter – removing 100K horses per year from the market – has little to no effect on the overall horse market!
    The economy is what has the greatest effect on the market – like all other markets for non-essential (luxury) goods, the horse market has taken a massive hit. Now UNLIKE other markets, where perhaps the businesspeople are more adept and they reduce or stop production, many of our horse breeders continue to churn out horses and their registries continue to encourage lottery style breeding – and thereby prolonging the problems facing the U.S. horse market. Arguably, slaughter is a barbaric solution that encourages breeders of poor quality stock and an irresponsible attitude from horse owners, that horses are disposable. Once and for all, we need to think rationally and come up with real solutions that actually ADDRESS the problem of at-risk horses – NOT prolong it, like slaughter!

  19. Slaughter will not fix anything and in reading the things people say I wonder are they really thinking? Is this about horses or money? Yes horses cost money. I think when you decide to breed horses you need to be responsible. I see all these people saying they are stuck with horses that are suffering, no good or unwanted. If it is such an issue there is this thing called a shot gun learn how to use it. I am sure that statement will get people going but I have been able to see both humane euthanasia and a gun shot and if given the choice would choose the gun over the other only if the person doing it knew what they were doing. I think it would help if the BLM would quit rounding up horses that don’t need to be. The solution to the too many horses issue has many faucets.

  20. I am taking this comment and offering it as mine. I share this sentiment and it is so simple to see that it blows my mind that others do not reduce it to the simplist equation as this poster did. It is my view and well stated.
    Thanks CanAmFam, Monterey, MA
    Coming from an analyst background, I’m a stickler for cause and effect. And this why the argument that we need slaughter to prevent horse neglect fails. Today you can take your horse to auctions all over the country and sell to kill buyers. There’s NOTHING stopping ANYONE from sending their horses to slaughter. And yet we’re seeing increased levels of neglect and surrender. But I thought slaughter prevented that????
    So what can we logically assume? We can assume that people who neglect or surrender their horses don’t see slaughter as an option! We can also assume, since slaughter is still an option, and the same number of US horses are being slaughtered today as we used to slaughter here when the US plants were open, that increases in neglect and surrender ARE NOT RELATED TO CLOSING THE US PLANTS. In fact, what it DOES indicate is that the effect of slaughter – removing 100K horses per year from the market – has little to no effect on the overall horse market!
    The economy is what has the greatest effect on the market – like all other markets for non-essential (luxury) goods, the horse market has taken a massive hit. Now UNLIKE other markets, where perhaps the businesspeople are more adept and they reduce or stop production, many of our horse breeders continue to churn out horses and their registries continue to encourage lottery style breeding – and thereby prolonging the problems facing the U.S. horse market. Arguably, slaughter is a barbaric solution that encourages breeders of poor quality stock and an irresponsible attitude from horse owners, that horses are disposable. Once and for all, we need to think rationally and come up with real solutions that actually ADDRESS the problem of at-risk horses – NOT prolong it, like slaughter!
    CanAmFam, Monterey, MA
    Posted: 2/11/2011 6:42:47 PM

  21. I also agree with CanAmFam. If slaughter is thriving just as much as ever, there is just no way that a non-existent lack of the slaughter option can be blamed for an “excess” of horses. Massive over breeding by the big breed associations coupled with unprecedented owner irresponsibility – these are the problems. Breeders are responsible for the horses they breed, and owners are responsible for the horses they buy. Period.
    However, there are a couple of things that weren’t even mentioned. First, I don’t believe in-state inspectors are ever going to qualify horse meat to be sold for human consumption. The 2008 Farm Bill specifically names the animals that MAY be able to be sold in intrastate commerce without Federal Inspection, and horses are NOT on the list. Besides, who is going to buy the poisonous meat within the US? No market here.
    There is NO way to legally force independent rescues take on horses unless they receive support via tax money. Otherwise, legislators have NO such power. They call this “unconstitutional.” Ever hear of that?
    For that matter, you people ever hear of veterinarian administered euthanasia? If you have an old, sick, crippled or dangerous horse, THIS is your responsibility. Besides, the kill buyers are NOT interested in old skinny, sick horses. Attend an auction and see which horses they bid on. Idiotic!
    The most telling of all is they do not mention the problem of drug residues in American horses. If you own a horse – if you don’t own a horse, go to a store that sells horse supplies – and look at how many of the labels on the stuff you use almost daily carry this warning: NOT FOR USE IN HORSES INTENDED FOR FOOD. This means if a horse has EVER been exposed to this substance they are barred from the human food chain permanently. NO withdrawal period, no nothing – they are OUT. Bute, ivermectin, fly spray… Just the tip of the iceberg. Now, horse eaters, do you plan to knowingly sell adulterated meat to other people?
    http://www.box.net/shared/smhn2fmdeb
    And yes, I DO own horses and have for over 30 years.

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