Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More Pro-Slaughter Crap from the AQHA

More Pro-Slaughter Crap from the AQHA<

Companion Horse Update Written by Sheri Forrest:

The passing of HR 503, which enacted a ban on horse slaughter in the United States, has further fueled efforts to have horses legally reclassified as companion animals, instead of livestock. The reported reasons for the proposed change include the belief that it would further prevent the use of horses for human consumption and the opinion that horses are akin in their relationship to humans to other domesticated animals such as dogs and cats.

Both the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are organizations behind this effort.Livestock, by definition, are animals kept or raised for use or pleasure. Horses have, traditionally and legally, long been considered livestock in the United States, since they are raised and kept on a farm or ranch and are often used in commercial enterprises.

According to American Horse Council statistics, the horse industry represents a major U.S. agri-business that makes a significant contribution to the economic well-being of the entire country. The industry has a $112-billion impact on the U.S. economy, generates 1,404,400 full-time equivalent jobs, and pays $1.9 billion in taxes to all levels of government.RamificationsChanging the legal status of horses to companion animals could, in fact, have several potentially negative ramifications to the horse industry. These include risks to federal and state funding of the tracking and containment of equine diseases, certain tax classifications, equine limited-liability laws, anti-cruelty laws, state and local zoning ordinances and the availability of emergency disaster relief funds.

The American Horse Council (AHC), the voice of the horse industry in Washington, D.C., was joined by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) in addressing these ramifications in a joint statement issued in response to the effort to reclassify horses. Basically, their findings outlined the following points:State and federal funding - Changing the livestock status of horses means the possible loss of financial support from the United States Department of Agriculture and state Departments of Agriculture for research, regulation and disaster relief.On the national level, the care and regulation of horses and horse-related activities come under the purview of the United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA provides technical expertise and monetary support for such things as: research into the prevention of equine diseases like West Nile virus, equine viral arteritis (EVA), vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE) and contagious equine metritis (CEM); enforcement of the Horse Protection Act; and the development and enforcement of the Safe Commercial Transportation of Equine to Slaughter Act.On the state level, each state's Department of Agriculture is usually charged with the regulation of horse-related activities. Like the USDA, many state Departments of Agriculture assist the horse industry through research and regulatory programs. Tax issues - Under current federal tax law, commercial horse owners and breeders are treated as farmers. This classification has tax ramifications that could change if horses are not considered livestock. Horse owners and breeders could also lose the advantages of state excise and sales taxes laws that consider horses to be livestock. If horses are no longer livestock, horse breeding will no longer be an agricultural endeavor and federal and state taxes for horse operations could increase.Limited-liability laws - Many states have passed limited-liability laws - one purpose of which is to protect stable owners, equine event sponsors and other industry organizers from lawsuits arising if an individual is injured while attending or participating in such an event.

Those involved in the horse industry realize the horse is a potentially dangerous animal and are aware of the risks when dealing with horses. Many of the state limited-liability laws pertain not just to horses, but encompass all livestock or farm animals including horses. If horses are no longer considered livestock, a law that so many horse people worked so hard to pass may no longer protect them.Humane laws - All 50 states have animal anti-cruelty laws. Some laws are written specifically for livestock, others are written specifically for non-livestock. Livestock anti-cruelty laws are usually written to ensure that these animals receive the humane treatment and care they deserve, while still providing for the use of the animal. If horses are legally considered non-livestock, livestock anti-cruelty laws will no longer apply, putting at risk the provision for the "use" of horses in various activities and competitions.Local and state zoning laws - The livestock designation also allows for state and federal funds to be applied to the horse industry, providing show areas and public horse facilities. Zoning approvals and consideration of livestock events fall under agricultural zoning laws. If horses are no longer considered livestock, and therefore no longer governed under ag-zoning laws, the zoning of horse-related events may be subject to non-agricultural activity zoning requirements.Livestock benefitsJay Hickey, president of the AHC, emphasizes that the current classification of horses as livestock has several benefits to horse owners. "With this current classification, people have the option to treat their horses as livestock, pets or companion animals," he stated. "It is their prerogative. If this changes and horses become legally classified as companion animals, it would have a great financial effect on the horse industry."Also, according to Hickey, the AHC has been working for some time to achieve parity for horse breeders with other livestock producers. The AHC strongly supports the disaster relief provisions in the newly approved Farm Bill. On May 22, 2008, Congress overrode Presidents Bush's veto of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (commonly known as the Farm Bill) and enacted it into law. Hickey states that the Farm Bill includes two significant provisions beneficial to horse breeders that absolutely hinge on horses being classified as livestock. The new law makes "equine farmers and ranchers" eligible (for the first time in history) for emergency loans following a disaster by specifically including them within the group of producers eligible for these low-interest loans. The Farm Bill also includes a new disaster assistance program that will provide relief funds to farmers and ranchers who suffer losses because of disaster. Horses are specifically included within the definition of livestock eligible for these relief programs. Should horses be reclassified as companion animals, this type of federal and state financial support would cease to exist for horse owners.Tom Persechino, senior director of marketing for the American Quarter Horse Association, echoes Hickey's sentiments. "AQHA strongly opposes any effort to reclassify horses as companion animals," Persechino said. "We have worked diligently with Congress to ensure that horses continue to be classified as livestock. One significant reason for this is to make sure horse owners are eligible for government monies just as farmers are in the event of disaster relief, such as the flood situation in Iowa and the fires in California. We also want to protect the horse industry with respect to tax issues. We strongly encourage our members to actively oppose this effort."And, yes, the argument surrounding the legal classification of horses circles back to the realm of the horse slaughter issue, wherein it refers to unwanted animals. Even if horses' classification were changed to that of a companion animal, it would likely be difficult to deal with them as we do dogs and cats. Currently, unwanted cats or dogs are euthanized by the owner's veterinarian, turned loose to fend for themselves or surrendered to shelters (where millions are euthanized annually). It is a fact that horse owners can opt for euthanizing unwanted horses at the expense of the procedure and disposal of the carcass. But, it is highly unlikely that a horse would be turned loose to fend for itself; and there is nothing equivalent to an animal shelter that exists for unwanted horses, where they could be euthanized (and the carcasses disposed of at public expense).All in all, it would serve horse owners well to closely monitor the effort to reclassify horses as companion animals and to voice their opinions to their local, state and federal officials, as its outcome could, indeed, be far-reaching.

Reach Sheri Forrest

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1 comment:

CJ said...

Here is a novel idea,...why not leave it up to the OWNERS as to how they want to classify their animals? I know a gal keeps a pet pig and she certainly would NOT consider him livestock but a companion, why shouldnt it be the owners decision to CHOOSE the catagory he would like to "file" his animal under,...? Makes sense to me.