While Congress considers a bill aiming to stem the practice oftransporting horses to Mexico or Canada for slaughter, a growing numberof state legislatures have introduced counterlegislation. Specifically,these address horse processing facilities, the consumption of horsemeat, and the problem of unwanted horses.
HR 503, the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, wasintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee onJan. 14 (see JAVMA, March 1, 2009, page 585).The bill proposes to criminalize the purchase, sale, delivery, orexport of horse meat intended for human consumption. Violators wouldface fines and/or one year's imprisonment for a first offense or anoffense involving five or fewer horses, and fines and/or three years'imprisonment for repeated offenses and offenses involving more thanfive horses.
Meanwhile, uniform resolutions and bills have been introduced inArizona (SCM 1001), Kansas (HCR 5004), Missouri (HCR 19), Minnesota (SB133), Utah (HJR 7), and Wyoming (HJR 8) that urge Congress to opposefederal legislation that interferes with a state's ability to directthe transport or processing of horses. As of Feb. 17, the Utahresolution had passed through the state House and Senate, and had beensent to the lieutenant governor for enrollment. In Kansas, the state'sHouse Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee sent the bill to thefull House for a vote.
Similarly, Arkansas and Missouri have created resolutions (HCR 1004and SCR 8) that urge Congress to support the continuation of horseprocessing facilities in the United States. South Dakota introduced arelated resolution (SCR 2), which urges Congress and the Department ofAgriculture to reinstate and fund a federal inspection programgoverning horse slaughter and euthanasia facilities. Also, North Dakotaput forth legislation (HB 1496), which passed the state House Feb. 18by a vote of 89-5, directing the state's Department of Commerce toconduct an equine processing facility feasibility study.
New York and Illinois recently introduced legislation relating tothe consumption of horse meat. New York's bill (A 3736) prohibits anyperson from slaughtering a horse if he or she knows or has reason toknow that the horse will be used for human consumption. Contrary to NewYork's position, Illinois' bill (HB 583) would repeal the state's banon the slaughter of horses for human consumption. On Feb. 24, thestate's House Agriculture and Conservation Committee voted 11-2 for thebill, which moves to the full House for a vote.
Oregon and Montana Senate bills attempt to combat the unwanted-horseproblem. Oregon's bill (SB 398) modifies the existing crime of animalabandonment, a class B misdemeanor, to include the abandonment ofhorses. Montana's bill (SB 167) creates the offense of abandonment orstarvation of horses.
Another bill in Montana (HB 418) would encourage private investorsto develop horse slaughter plants in the state by prohibiting statecourts from granting injunctions designed to stop or delay constructionof horse slaughter or processing facilities on the basis of permit orlicensing challenges or on environmental grounds. On Feb. 20, thestate's House Agriculture Committee approved the bill by a vote of 15-5.
Two bills introduced in Kentucky to address unwanted horses passedthe state's House Agriculture and Small Business Committee. One bill(HR 418) gives local governments more authority to collect stray orneglected horses and place them with a caretaker, who could then sellthe animals under certain circumstances. The committee also approvedlegislation (HB 331) to allow people boarding horses or other animalsto sell them if the owner is at least 45 days behind in paying bills.
Finally, a bill put forth in Arizona (HB 2178) would direct thestate's Department of Agriculture to create and maintain a registry andpublic list of equine rescue facilities.
Visit www.avma.org and click on"State" under Advocacy and then "State legislative updates" for thelatest information on state legislation related to unwanted horses andhorse slaughter.