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News - Kentucky Equine Health & Welfare Council formed

  • July 01, 2010

Deeply embedded into the history, culture and business of the Bluegrass State, the horse is widely recognized as a symbolic ambassador for Kentucky. Yet, surprisingly, Kentucky has also been labeled as one of the least efficient states in the country for preserving this iconic animal’s health and welfare—until now. Kentucky’s passion for the horse—fueled by the Equine Health and Welfare Alliance (EHWA) and the five prominent equine veterinarians who established that organization—has just returned the Commonwealth to the elite ranks of equine welfare with the passing of House Bill 398.

In early June 2010, Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare bill, putting the well-being of the horse back into the state and national spotlight. The passing of this bill created the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Council, making it the first organization of its kind in the United States. The Council will work with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to launch the improvements needed across the state on behalf of equine welfare interests.

HB398 was originally proposed by the EHWA, sponsored by Rep. Tom McKee (D-Cynthiana), chair of the House Agriculture and Small Business committee, and then passed by the Kentucky General Assembly in April of this year. Bi-partisan support in the Kentucky Legislature also helped the bill achieve its final approval. The bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Royce Adams (D-Dry Ridge), Rep. Ron Crimm (R-Louisville), Rep Charlie Hoffman (D-Georgetown), Rep. Don Pasley (D-Winchester), Rep. Kent Stevens (D-Lawrenceburg), Rep. Susan Westrom (D-Lexington) and Rep. Wilson Stone (D-Scottsville).

“From the pony in the backyard to the winner of the Kentucky Derby, the horse is special in this state,” McKee stated on the EHWA web site. “It is our signature animal. This bill is a step toward improving the health and welfare of the horse.”

This concentrated effort to improve Kentucky’s status not only as a preferred home for horses, but also a safe haven for them, is a point that will not be missed by the international audience gathering for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) later this September at the Kentucky Horse Park.

“Ensuring the humane treatment of all animals is a principle we must show the more than 600,000 expected WEG attendees that Kentuckians take seriously,” said Gov. Beshear. “The creation of these two entities elevates the importance of how we care for all equine and farm animals each and every day. The Council has a very important task ahead as it works with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to enact and enforce regulations concerning the treatment of these animals.”

Included within the Equine Health and Welfare Council’s overarching efforts to promote the humane treatment of horses and other farm animals, the mission and responsibility of the newly formed group is to:
 Undertake research, conduct public hearings and collect data to determine prevalent equine health and welfare issues.
 Strive to develop regional centers of care for unwanted, abused, neglected or confiscated equines (horses, donkeys and mules).
 Create a system of voluntary certification of equine rescue and retirement operations that meet industry-accepted standards for the care of equines.
 Research and offer suggestions for statutory changes affecting equine health, welfare, abuse and neglect issues.
 Assist veterinarians and others in maintaining the health and welfare of the equines by identifying and referring to the appropriate authorities critical areas of need.

The Council will consist of 13 voting members and two non-voting members, including:
 The Commissioner of Agriculture
 The state veterinarian
 A representative from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Equine Initiative
 A representative from the University of Louisville Equine Industry Program
 A representative of equine education programs chosen by Morehead State University, Murray State University or Western Kentucky University (on a rotating basis)
 The Executive Director of the University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center or the Director of the Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Center
 A representative of the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation
 A veterinarian representing the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Alliance
 A member representing the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association
 A member of the Kentucky Horse Council, to be appointed by the Governor from a list of three nominees
 A member representing horse rescue entities, which will be selected by the Governor from a list generated from those who apply for membership on the Board
 Two members at large who live in diverse regions of the state, to be appointed by the Governor, and who will primarily represent 1) equine breeders and owners and 2) agricultural interests

The non-voting members will consist of the chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and the chair of the House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Small Business.

The formation of the Equine Health and Welfare Council is a monumental victory for Kentucky, and has already drawn attention from several other states seeking to duplicate this first-of-its-kind legislation. While the Council’s task is understandably large, its overall mission is quite important for a state that is so historically, culturally and economically linked to the welfare of the horse. As Kentuckians begin seeing the protective strategies implemented by the Council as the result of HB398, the Bluegrass State can once again confidently proclaim that the horse has a much more secure place in its future, too.

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