While Congress considers a bill aiming to stem the practice of
transporting horses to Mexico or Canada for slaughter, a growing number
of state legislatures have introduced counterlegislation. Specifically,
these address horse processing facilities, the consumption of horse
meat, and the problem of unwanted horses.
HR 503, the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, was
introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on
Jan. 14 (see JAVMA, March 1, 2009, page 585).
The bill proposes to criminalize the purchase, sale, delivery, or
export of horse meat intended for human consumption. Violators would
face fines and/or one year's imprisonment for a first offense or an
offense involving five or fewer horses, and fines and/or three years'
imprisonment for repeated offenses and offenses involving more than
Meanwhile, uniform resolutions and bills have been introduced in
Arizona (SCM 1001), Kansas (HCR 5004), Missouri (HCR 19), Minnesota (SB
133), Utah (HJR 7), and Wyoming (HJR 8) that urge Congress to oppose
federal legislation that interferes with a state's ability to direct
the transport or processing of horses. As of Feb. 17, the Utah
resolution had passed through the state House and Senate, and had been
sent to the lieutenant governor for enrollment. In Kansas, the state's
House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee sent the bill to the
full House for a vote.
Similarly, Arkansas and Missouri have created resolutions (HCR 1004
and SCR 8) that urge Congress to support the continuation of horse
processing facilities in the United States. South Dakota introduced a
related resolution (SCR 2), which urges Congress and the Department of
Agriculture to reinstate and fund a federal inspection program
governing horse slaughter and euthanasia facilities. Also, North Dakota
put forth legislation (HB 1496), which passed the state House Feb. 18
by a vote of 89-5, directing the state's Department of Commerce to
conduct an equine processing facility feasibility study.
New York and Illinois recently introduced legislation relating to
the consumption of horse meat. New York's bill (A 3736) prohibits any
person from slaughtering a horse if he or she knows or has reason to
know that the horse will be used for human consumption. Contrary to New
York's position, Illinois' bill (HB 583) would repeal the state's ban
on the slaughter of horses for human consumption. On Feb. 24, the
state's House Agriculture and Conservation Committee voted 11-2 for the
bill, which moves to the full House for a vote.
Oregon and Montana Senate bills attempt to combat the unwanted-horse
problem. Oregon's bill (SB 398) modifies the existing crime of animal
abandonment, a class B misdemeanor, to include the abandonment of
horses. Montana's bill (SB 167) creates the offense of abandonment or
starvation of horses.
Another bill in Montana (HB 418) would encourage private investors
to develop horse slaughter plants in the state by prohibiting state
courts from granting injunctions designed to stop or delay construction
of horse slaughter or processing facilities on the basis of permit or
licensing challenges or on environmental grounds. On Feb. 20, the
state's House Agriculture Committee approved the bill by a vote of 15-5.
Two bills introduced in Kentucky to address unwanted horses passed
the state's House Agriculture and Small Business Committee. One bill
(HR 418) gives local governments more authority to collect stray or
neglected horses and place them with a caretaker, who could then sell
the animals under certain circumstances. The committee also approved
legislation (HB 331) to allow people boarding horses or other animals
to 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 the
state's Department of Agriculture to create and maintain a registry and
public list of equine rescue facilities.
Visit www.avma.org and click on
"State" under Advocacy and then "State legislative updates" for the
latest information on state legislation related to unwanted horses and