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Animal Law, Animal Welfare

Kentucky Horses At Risk! Who’s behind this outrageous new bill, and how to stop it!

In its most recent report of animal protection law rankings, the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranked the state of Kentucky dead last – for the tenth year in a row. Here are some of the reasons why Kentucky was chosen – again – as the worst state:

  • Felony provisions are available only for cruelty and fighting, both against only select animals;
  • No felony provisions for neglect or abandonment;
  • Inadequate definitions/standards of basic care; and
  • Veterinarians are prohibited from reporting suspected cruelty or fighting.

One would think that lawmakers in Kentucky would be attempting to improve their animal protection laws, and while there has been some recent improvement, e.g., the state strengthened its animal fighting statute, it is simply not enough.

Is it possible for Kentucky’s animal protections to get even worse?

Animal advocates across the nation, including in Kentucky itself, are outraged at a bill introduced by Sen. Robin Webb, Senate Bill 139, which would “classify horses as livestock rather than as companion animals or pets.” SB 139 would amend KRS 100.111 (2)(a), adding “horse” to the definition of livestock:

For purposes of this subsection, “livestock” means cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, alpacas, llamas, buffaloes, and any other animals of the bovine, ovine, porcine, caprine, equine, or camelid species (emphasis added)

For the full text of the bill, please see here: https://legiscan.com/KY/bill/SB139/2017

So we have a state in which animal protections are already incredibly weak, putting animals’ lives at risk. And now we have a bill that’s extremely close to becoming law, introduced by a senator whose history with horses is very… interesting.

Senator Webb owns, shows, and breeds Tennessee Walking Horses. Many walking horses have been subjected to a cruel practice called “soring,” which gives the horses the unnatural and painful gait (see more: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/tenn_walking_horses/). In 2013, Sen. Webb defended horse trainer Jackie L. McConnell who had been caught in an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States abusing his walking horses. She argued that the footage of McConnell hitting his horses in the face was taken out of context, and in a weird attempt to justify the physical abuse, argued that walking horses are “dangerous” animals. Incredibly, Sen. Webb also stated that there are always “training techniques that animal-rights groups find offensive.”

Hitting animals in the face is a training technique? It seems like according to Sen. Webb, yes. Shockingly, also in 2013, she was cited for violating the Horse Protection Act when her two horses displayed evidence of soring. Three years later, Sen. Webb publicly opposed legislation amending the Horse Protection Act (15 U.S.C. Sections 1821 et seq.) at an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) meeting. This legislation would have effectively stopped soring by banning “action devices,” which is what causes the sores. During her testimony, Sen. Webb outrageously argued that “it is not based in science or fact as pads and/or action devices do not harm the performance horse and athlete that we love.” How can anyone watch footage of horses being sored and believe no harm is involved?

She concluded her testimony with the statement that The Humane Society of the United States is a “radical and extreme animal rights group, not an animal welfare organization anymore than the Horse Protection Act is an animal welfare bill.” Yes, not only did she call HSUS “radical and extreme” (remember, they exposed her friend as a horse abuser), she attacked the same law that a few years earlier she had been cited for violating!

Sen. Webb also does not believe horses are anything but livestock. Yet bizarrely, she has spoken of her “favorite horse” as a “big part of [her] life,” that she “love[s] him” and that he’s her “companion, but he’s not a companion animal.” How someone can simultaneously be a companion but not a companion is beyond me.

Who Would Support SB 139?

It’s astonishing as to how many people and organizations have voiced their support. Here’s just a few:

  • Harvey Diamond, founder and co-owner of Louisville’s Skychai Racing. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the horse racing industry would support a bill reducing protections for horses.
  • Sen. Dorsey Ridley of Henderson, whose district includes the Ellis Park racetrack, who thinks horses are nothing more than “our property.” While the legal status of animals is property, it disgusts me when people insist that a sentient being, such as a horse, is on the same level as say, a car or a piece of furniture. Animals are not the same as objects. I can throw my TV against the wall and it harms nobody. There would be a big difference if I did the same action, but with my cat. The bottom line: Animals deserve greater protections, not less.
  • The American Association of Equine Practitioners, which to my knowledge has never outright stated its opposition to horse slaughter. In 2008, AAEP controversially voiced its opposition to H.R. 6598, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008. This act would have made it illegal to transport any horse (including horse flesh or carcass) with the intent that the horse be slaughtered for human consumption.

It’s obvious that the supporters of this bill are those who are in bed with the horse racing and show industry and those who aren’t opposed to horse slaughter.

How can we help Kentucky horses and stop this law?

We need to reduce animal cruelty not only in Kentucky but in the entire country, and this law will will inevitably increase harm against animals. Kentucky residents, it is absolutely imperative that you take action now.  I know many, many advocates have been voicing their concern and that’s great! We need more voices, though. The clock is ticking and horses are running out of time! Non-residents, please help spread the word by sharing this blog post! If you’re a Kentucky resident, visit http://horsefund.org/ky-sb139.php, which will help you contact your representative.

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Image copyrights Moyan Brenn, used under a Creative Commons license.

 

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About The Paw Report

I graduated from St. John's University School of Law in 2012, and am admitted to practice law in New York State. I was a member of the New York City Bar Association's Animal Law Committee for three years. I was born and raised in Rhode Island, but moved to New Mexico when I was 18. After dabbling in film for two years, I graduated from the University of New Mexico with a degree in Anthropology. I've been living in New York City since 2008, and currently reside in Brooklyn with my boyfriend and our two cats. I am a former organizer with Direct Action Everywhere - New York City.

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