Kentucky taking on unwanted horse issue

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A state known for its horse population is taking matters into its own hands when it comes to the problem of unwanted horses.

Kentucky's House voted 95-5 on April 1 to give final approval to H.B. 398, already passed by the state Senate, which would establish the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Board. A spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear said he will review the bill before deciding whether to sign it into law.

The group's job would be fivefold: collect data to determine horse health and welfare issues; look to develop regional centers of care for unwanted horses; create a system of voluntary certification of horse rescue and retirement operations; offer suggestions to address horse welfare issues; and assist veterinarians and others in maintaining the health and welfare of horses by identifying and referring critical areas of need to the appropriate authorities.

According to the bill's language, the new board would not impose on the regulatory authority of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission or the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners. Instead, the board would assist and advise the state Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet on issues involving all breeds of horses as well as donkeys, mules, and ponies.

The 13-member board would include representation by the state veterinarian, the University of Kentucky's Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, the University of Louisville Equine Industry Program, the executive director of the University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center, the chair of the Kentucky Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture, the chair of the Kentucky House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Small Business, a Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation representative, a veterinarian from the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Alliance, a Kentucky VMA member, and several other appointees.