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Equine-Related Legislation Causes Controversy around the Country

Several states are considering laws that will affect horses and other animals.


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Horse silhouette2011 has already brought controversy in the horse world with several legislative items related to horses emerging at the state level.

Nebraska State Senator Tyson Larson wants to bring horse slaughter to his home state. In January, the newly-elected Republican introduced LB 305, a bill that would create a state meat inspection agency to allow processing and export of horse meat.

According to his website, Sen. Larson comes from a horse farming heritage, and his bill reflects an opinion that has become common among horse ranchers in western states: that horse owners and breeders need slaughter as a disposal option for unwanted horses. However, the vast majority of Americans—approximately 70%, according to a 2009 Public Opinion Strategies poll—oppose horse slaughter.

According to Sen. Larson, the state meat inspection agency "will allow these processors to meet the demand for horse processing, responding to the federal government's disallowing funding for federal inspection of horse processing." The federal government stopped funding horse meat inspection in 2007, effectively shutting down the industry without creating an outright ban of horse slaughter.

Read the full text of Nebraska LB 305 here.

A related bill introduced by Sen. Larson, LB 306, would require rescue facilities to accept any horse brought to them by individuals or law enforcement without exception, regardless of whether or not they have the resources to care for the animal. Rescues would face a fine for every animal turned away. Although the bill places an extra burden on horse rescue operation, it offers no opportunity for government funding of those rescues. According to Larson's website, he believes the bill would contribute to "fostering a culture of humane treatment for animals."

Nebraska rescue organizations aren't buying it.

Valerie Hinderlider, president of a Nebraska rescue called Break Heart Ranch, was quoted in The Grand Island Independent as saying, "There's a reason behind trying to make [horse rescues] the fall guys, to take us under and then say, 'there's nothing to do with the horses,' and so slaughter would be the only option."

Sen. Larson's comments on the bill, published in the Lexington (Nebraska) Clipper-Herald appear to support Hinderlider's assumption.

"Basically, [L.B. 306] would mandate that humane societies and horse rescue operations would have to accept a horse if one was presented to them, or they would face a class four misdemeanor," said Larson. "I'm giving them an alternative. If they don't want us to process horses, what are we supposed to do?"

Read the full text of LB 306 here.

Nebraska residents can contact their state legislators to weigh in on these bills. Visit to find your senator.

Meanwhile, Virginia is considering S.B. 1026, which is meant to outline the standards of care specifically for "agricultural animals that ensure accommodation for customary farming activities." The bill amends the Code of Virginia to specify that owners of agricultural animals must provide "Feed to prevent emaciation" and "Water to prevent dehydration."

Critics of the bill, which include many animal welfare organizations, say that this weakens Virginia's existing animal protections by putting the standard of care down to the bare minimum. Supporters of the bill say that it prevents frivolous claims of cruelty and neglect by allowing for situations where a horse would not have access to feed or water, such as while being trailered.

The bill has passed the Virginia House of Delegates. Read the full text here.

Virginia residents can find their senators' contact info at

Finally, Oregon horse owner Lindy Minton proposed a bill that would require any horses in the state for more than 30 days to have an "equine ownership certificate." The bill has been effectively killed for the current session, but could re-emerge in the future. As written, the bill would require horse owners to have a certificate for each of their horses at a cost of no more than $100. It also outlines requirements for humane horse transportation, including requirements for trailer size as it relates to the horses in transport and mandatory rest times for long trips. Finally, the state of Oregon would be charged with keeping a registry of horse rescues, and rescue organizations would have to register with the state.

Minten stated that her goal was to help rescue organizations by weeding out the horse dealers posing as rescues. She also expressed that her bill was a working draft and she hoped that horse owners and rescuers would provide input to make it better. However, her bill was not well-received in the horse community and is not scheduled for discussion in the legislature.

Read the full text of the bill here.

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Equine-Related Legislation Causes Controversy around the Country

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Reader Comments

Suzanne    Warsaw, IN

2/14/2011 8:41:01 PM

I also agree with CanAmFam. If slaughter is thriving just as much as ever, there is just no way that a non-existent lack of the slaughter option can be blamed for an "excess" of horses. Massive over breeding by the big breed associations coupled with unprecedented owner irresponsibility - these are the problems. Breeders are responsible for the horses they breed, and owners are responsible for the horses they buy. Period.

However, there are a couple of things that weren't even mentioned. First, I don't believe in-state inspectors are ever going to qualify horse meat to be sold for human consumption. The 2008 Farm Bill specifically names the animals that MAY be able to be sold in intrastate commerce without Federal Inspection, and horses are NOT on the list. Besides, who is going to buy the poisonous meat within the US? No market here.

There is NO way to legally force independent rescues take on horses unless they receive support via tax money. Otherwise, legislators have NO such power. They call this "unconstitutional." Ever hear of that?

For that matter, you people ever hear of veterinarian administered euthanasia? If you have an old, sick, crippled or dangerous horse, THIS is your responsibility. Besides, the kill buyers are NOT interested in old skinny, sick horses. Attend an auction and see which horses they bid on. Idiotic!

The most telling of all is they do not mention the problem of drug residues in American horses. If you own a horse - if you don't own a horse, go to a store that sells horse supplies - and look at how many of the labels on the stuff you use almost daily carry this warning: NOT FOR USE IN HORSES INTENDED FOR FOOD. This means if a horse has EVER been exposed to this substance they are barred from the human food chain permanently. NO withdrawal period, no nothing - they are OUT. Bute, ivermectin, fly spray... Just the tip of the iceberg. Now, horse eaters, do you plan to knowingly sell adulterated meat to other people?

And yes, I DO own horses and have for over 30 years.

Jan    Springfield, MO

2/12/2011 12:59:07 PM

I am taking this comment and offering it as mine. I share this sentiment and it is so simple to see that it blows my mind that others do not reduce it to the simplist equation as this poster did. It is my view and well stated.

Thanks CanAmFam, Monterey, MA
Coming from an analyst background, I'm a stickler for cause and effect. And this why the argument that we need slaughter to prevent horse neglect fails. Today you can take your horse to auctions all over the country and sell to kill buyers. There's NOTHING stopping ANYONE from sending their horses to slaughter. And yet we're seeing increased levels of neglect and surrender. But I thought slaughter prevented that????

So what can we logically assume? We can assume that people who neglect or surrender their horses don’t see slaughter as an option! We can also assume, since slaughter is still an option, and the same number of US horses are being slaughtered today as we used to slaughter here when the US plants were open, that increases in neglect and surrender ARE NOT RELATED TO CLOSING THE US PLANTS. In fact, what it DOES indicate is that the effect of slaughter – removing 100K horses per year from the market – has little to no effect on the overall horse market!

The economy is what has the greatest effect on the market – like all other markets for non-essential (luxury) goods, the horse market has taken a massive hit. Now UNLIKE other markets, where perhaps the businesspeople are more adept and they reduce or stop production, many of our horse breeders continue to churn out horses and their registries continue to encourage lottery style breeding – and thereby prolonging the problems facing the U.S. horse market. Arguably, slaughter is a barbaric solution that encourages breeders of poor quality stock and an irresponsible attitude from horse owners, that horses are disposable. Once and for all, we need to think rationally and come up with real solutions that actually ADDRESS the problem of at-risk horses – NOT prolong it, like slaughter!
CanAmFam, Monterey, MA
Posted: 2/11/2011 6:42:47 PM

Heidi    Aldrich, MN

2/12/2011 12:52:08 PM

Slaughter will not fix anything and in reading the things people say I wonder are they really thinking? Is this about horses or money? Yes horses cost money. I think when you decide to breed horses you need to be responsible. I see all these people saying they are stuck with horses that are suffering, no good or unwanted. If it is such an issue there is this thing called a shot gun learn how to use it. I am sure that statement will get people going but I have been able to see both humane euthanasia and a gun shot and if given the choice would choose the gun over the other only if the person doing it knew what they were doing. I think it would help if the BLM would quit rounding up horses that don't need to be. The solution to the too many horses issue has many faucets.

Lynn    Brampton, ON

2/11/2011 7:25:03 PM

I still say promote responsible breeding not fix the problem after it's too late

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