Equines (H.O.R.S.E.) act

The Humane and Optimal Restoration and Sustainability of Equines (H.O.R.S.E.) Act

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[Proposed Legislation for introduction in the US Congress]

 Horse owners and concerned citizens from across the Nation have come together with real solutions to ensure the humane care, management, and euthanasia of horses; to ensure the long-term sustainability and viability of the equine industry; to restore the market for all horses; and to restore the habitat, and ensure well-managed sustainability for free-roaming wild herds on federal lands.  There is no disagreement whatsoever that all animals should be treated humanely from birth until death. 

The current federal legislation pertaining to horses, H.R. 503, “Prevention of Cruelty to Equines,” its corresponding Senate bill S. 727, and H.R. 1018, “amending the Free Wild Roaming Horses and Burros Act” are all misguided “feel good” bills that at first glance, and to a misinformed, emotionally manipulated public seem to protect horses—while, in fact, they do exactly the opposite. These bills and their horrific unintended consequences would institutionalize and codify a miserable, cruel, and barbaric death for hundreds of thousands of horses. Horses suffer from starvation, abandonment, and neglect by owners unable to sell or give their horses away.  Ultimately, these bills would spell the end to the use and enjoyment of horses by American citizens, because no country can afford to support an unchecked population of any species over the long term. 

Concerned citizens who sincerely seek the well-being of horses should understand that animals of all kinds require management and control. No jurisdiction in the country allows feral animals or native wildlife to reproduce unchecked to the point where they have eliminated their resource base and are starving, dying, and destroying the environment for all other species. The same immutable laws of nature apply to horses. To protect people and the environment, horses must be adopted or used by someone who has the resources to care for them, or be humanely euthanized, just like the local animal shelter euthanizes other animals that are not adopted.  Agencies and owners responsible for all forms of wildlife need to control numbers to preserve the resource base, and maintain ample deer, elk, bears, and wolves—so must we control numbers of wild horses and burros to ensure that our children and grandchildren can enjoy their presence on our public lands.

Euthanasia is defined as a “good death” that is quick, painless and as stress-free as possible.  After euthanasia is provided, all legal, moral and ethical obligations for the well-being and care of that animal cease.  How the carcass is disposed of, or utilized, is entirely the prerogative, right, and responsibility of the animal’s owner.  For animals that have been trusted companions, loyal partners, and pets, this will generally mean a respectful burial or cremation depending on the owner’s philosophy and resources. For others the most appropriate option might be delivery to a rendering plant or a landfill.  Rendering plants reduce animal carcasses to oils and useful by-products such as soap, glycerin, lubricants, inks, cleansing creams, shampoo, glue, antifreeze, explosives, and paints. Most small animal shelters utilize rendering plants for carcass disposal, as do livestock producers who occasionally have carcasses unsuitable for processing.  Because horses are traditional food animals in most of the world, there is a viable export market for horse meat. In addition, by-products of equine processing such as the pancreas, heart valves, pituitary glands, synovial joint fluid and more are used in human and veterinary lifesaving medicinal products. Many horse owners either need, or wish to recoup the monetary value of their unusable horse, or a horse they can no longer support, and are comfortable with this solution; especially if they can be assured that their animals are humanely killed.

The H.O.R.S.E. Act of 2009 is being proposed to include the following:

  • Requires that all horses to be euthanized must be humanely killed using a method that is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). 
  • Allows processers of horse meat to apply for and receive fee-based inspection services from the USDA and state inspection programs. Under this regulation, which is already in use for all species of non-amenable animals such as bison and pen-raised elk, the processor pays for the necessary food safety, live animal handling, and humane euthanasia regulation at the processing point, as well as the necessary coordination between USDA, European Union, Japanese, and other Asian food safety systems.
  • Requires that equine rescue, recovery, and retirement operations (that are accepting unusable and unwanted horses, as well as horses that owners cannot support, for a fee or for no charge), follow AAEP’s “Care Guidelines for Equine Rescue and Retirement Facilities.” Regulation will ensure horses are being cared for appropriately and that owner’s stipulations are being adhered to in terms of the disposition of the horses they have surrendered.
  • Mandates the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to adopt and enforce all recommendations of the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Committee. The bill also includes a clear mandate to measure population numbers accurately and that the optimum numbers are not exceeded.  By strictly adhering to herd numbers in Horse Management Areas, the BLM can ensure the sustainability and ecosystem integrity of the resource base for horses, burros, native wildlife, and livestock. The H.O.R.S.E. Act of 2009 promotes reasonable attempts and creative programs that can be established to encourage the adoption or sale of all horses removed from BLM lands. The H.O.R.S.E. Act of 2009 clearly establishes that no wild horse should be held in a corral, feedlot, or pasture for longer than 90 days. Finally, the bill mandates that wild horses in captivity and not transferred to private ownership within 90 days shall be sold to the highest bidder without reservation, with all of the proceeds returned to improve the management and habitat for the wild herds.
  • Tightens the current transport regulations, strengthens the penalties, and provides for the enforcement of violations of the equine transport for processing requirements
  • Requires and provides for training and certification for employees at equine processing facilities involved in the actual humane euthanasia of horses prior to processing.
  • Requires signage at auctions and sales facilities that do not have a $1,000 minimum bid requirement that indicate that horses sold may be humanely euthanized, and the carcass processed for meat and by-products including life-saving medicinal uses.
  • Requires that sellers to processing facilities present the plant with a document stating that they consent to processing; if they have owned the horse less than sixty days (a “killer buyer”), they must present a similar document from the original seller, unless the horse was purchased at an auction with signage mentioned above.
  • Requires inspecting horses at the plant and holding those with lip tattoos or microchips that match numbers or chips that an owner has registered with a national “do not slaughter” registry.  Such horses would be held for forty-eight hours to allow the owner to claim the horse and compensate the plant for its costs.

The H.O.R.S.E. Act of 2009 does not impede the market, transport, processing, or use of horses in any way. It does not take away the private property rights of horse owners. It does not eliminate the right of Americans to decide how, or if, they choose to market or consume horse meat.  The Act will encourage and not defeat the efforts of states, tribes, and private citizens to implement services, facilities, and options for all horse owners. Nor does it impose egregious financial and regulatory burdens on either horse owners or taxpayers. The H.O.R.S.E. Act of 2009 does not require American taxpayers to pay for the care of excessive and unrealistic numbers of wild horses and burros on our public lands or for care of the Nation’s unwanted domestic horses.