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). 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 five horses.
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 horse slaughter.