In the News Feature

Beshear names animal-care board members

Panels were created to handle livestock, poultry and equine issues

By Janet Patton –

Gov. Steve Beshear has appointed members to two boards created by the state legislature this spring to set animal-care standards.

The Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission will advise the state Board of Agriculture on standards governing the care and well-being of on-farm livestock and poultry.

The Kentucky Farm Bureau and other livestock producer groups lobbied for creation of the panel as a way to forestall animal-protection measures passed in other states.

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Gov. Beshear issues statement on slaughter.

Statement from KY Gov. Steve Beshear:

The First Lady and I consider ourselves among Kentucky’s leading horse advocates, and that’s why we are so pleased that Kentucky is a national leader in the care of horses.

This spring, I was proud to sign HB398, which created the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Council (KEHWC) – the first of its kind in the nation – under the state’s Department of Agriculture.  The council will assist and advise the department on issues of equine health and welfare, and take action to keep horses safe in the Commonwealth.  The council will offer help to unhealthy or abused horses that are identified by Kentucky equine veterinarians or others, and will never participate in the slaughter of these animals.

By initiating this law, combined with the commitment of the KEHWA, Kentucky has been proactive in animal welfare protection.  To date, no other state has offered the same horse protection package.

Kentucky is the horse capital of the world.  I am proud of our work to make sure that we offer these magnificent animals the care they deserve.



Gov. Beshear signs nation’s first legislation promoting humane treatment of horses, other farm animals

Governor Steve Beshear’s Communications Office
Press Release Date: Monday, June 07, 2010

Kentucky’s treatment of farm animals will be noticed globally during World Equestrian Games

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Gov. Steve Beshear, First Lady Jane Beshear and equine and agriculture officials today applauded the recent passage of legislation that creates the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Council, the first of its kind in the nation. The Governor signed House Bill 398 during a ceremony at the Kentucky Horse Park, the venue of the upcoming Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG).
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Kentucky takes national leadership role in the health and welfare of horse

April 26, 10:28 PM

Lexington Horse Racing Examiner, Rick Capone

Out in the rural parts of the state of Kentucky, it is not inconceivable to find horses who were once family pets or show horses, or, even possibly, one-time race horses, roaming around the strip mines or through the forests, abandoned by their owners and fending for themselves.

Sadly, however, with the down turn in the economy, some people have resorted to letting their beloved horses go free in the wild because they might not have been able to take care of them anymore and were afraid they might end up in an abusive home or worse.

It’s hard to believe that Kentucky, with Lexington – the “Horse Capital of the World” – as it centerpiece, is considered one of the worst states in the country when it comes to the health and welfare of the horse.

Yet, that is the case. In fact, as reported in an article in The Jurga Report dated March 7, 2010, according to a new report released by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Kentucky is “the single worst in the nation again this year for animal protection laws – where animal abusers get off relatively easily.”

The annual report, which is the only one in the nation, ranks all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories for the general comprehensiveness and relative strength of their respective animal protection laws. It basis its report on a “detailed comparative analysis of more than 3,800 pages of statutes, tracking 14 distinct categories or provisions and recognizes the states where animal law has real teeth.”

According to the report, along with Kentucky, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi and North Dakota are the five states in the country with the worst animal protection laws.

For Kentucky, however, that is about to change.

Thanks to the Equine Health and Welfare Alliance (EHWA) and the five prominent equine veterinarians who created it, along with a lot of hard work by a number of other people, the state of Kentucky has recently passed, and Gov. Steve Beshear has signed into law, the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare bill, a new law that will put Kentucky into a leadership role in the United States in taking care of the needs of the horse. And, not just the Thoroughbred race horses, which the Bluegrass state is known for around the world, but show horses, riding horses, trail horses, pet horses – all horses.

The bill was the first major initiative of the EHWA, a Kentucky-based nonprofit corporation, whose focus, according to its web site, is “solely on issues and mechanisms that protect, promote and preserve adequate humane measures of basic needs for the horse.”

The EHWA was founded by five prominent Lexington-area equine veterinarians: Dr. Dwayne Marcum (president), Dr. Doug Byars, Dr Mike Cavey, Dr. Gary Lavin and Dr. Norm Umphehour. However, it also welcomes the involvement of other individuals, organizations, philanthropies and companies interesting in improving the welfare of the horse.

“Our philosophy has always been that the horse is the deaf mute in this game,” said Dr. Byars while sitting comfortably at his desk in the home office on his farm. “It isn’t just race horses either, it’s all horses. And, there’s only two ways to really represent the deaf mute (the horse), and that’s through its health and welfare.”

Byars, who was the Director of Internal Medicine at the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute for 23 years, then left five years ago to work as a private equine consultant, has seen the need for this type of legislation for a long time.

“Since 1937, (the horse) has not been recognized as a USDA species,” he said. “It doesn’t get research funding or food chain dollars. It has basically relied solely on benevolent contributions, which have a tough time keeping pace.

“So, somebody had to go to the front, because, again, the horse is the deaf mute. The horse is that athlete – racing, performance and recreational – that doesn’t have an agent speaking. So, we have indirectly designated ourselves the responsibility for the horse. That is the void we want to fill.”

The bill, House Bill 398, was sponsored by Rep. Tom McKee (D-Cynthiana), who was approached by the EHWA about the plight of the horse in the state. After listening to their ideas, and having his staff study the issue and finding out just how low the state of Kentucky ranked in terms of the health and welfare of horses, McKee came on board to help push the bill into law.

The bill itself creates the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Board, whose purpose is to assist, advise and consult on issues of equine health and welfare and take action to help maintain the health, welfare and safety of equines in Kentucky. The bill also creates an equine health and welfare trust fund to be administered by the Board to promote equine health, welfare and safety.

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

The bill also had bi-partisan support in the Kentucky Legislature and 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).

The mission of the newly formed Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Board will be 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 board itself will consist of 13 members and two non-voting members. The 13 members will include:
* 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; and
* 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.

One of the things the bill does not give the Board, however, is automatic funding. Its goal, in time, will be to develop that type of funding. In the meantime, it will have to get things started through donations and support from people in the horse industry and from people who just have a love of horses and want to see them cared for throughout their lives.

“We need to be very creative in how we would develop this,” Byars said of how they will go about trying to raise funds for the Board to work with. “The bottom line is that the benevolent dollar does not keep pace with the actual needs of the horse.”

Byars points to an article that appeared in the Final Turn column in the April 3, 2010 issue of BloodHorse, to illustrate his point on this subject. The article, “Charity or Obligation,” which was written by his friend, Herb Moelis, who was the president and founder of Thoroughbred Charities of American (TCA) and just retired from that position, looks at the Thoroughbred racing industry specifically, and offers some solutions.

“(The) history and the money raised by TCA are impressive, but not nearly enough to cope with the problem of the neglected or unwanted horse after racing,” he wrote. “With economic conditions what they are right now, many owners simply cannot afford to maintain and care for their horses. The bottom line is there are many more unwanted, neglected Thoroughbreds for us to care for. This means much more money is needed.

“The solution, and my hope for the next 20 years, is simple,” he continued. “This should not be a charity, but rather an industry obligation. Most of the stallion farmers have been generous, and have been doing their share by donating seasons to the TCA auction. The Jockey Club has instituted a “Foal Check Off” plan that basically assesses breeders.

“How about the racetracks and owners, where annual purses are about $1 billion? How about the purchasers and sellers at the sales companies’ auctions, where about $652 million changes hands every year? How about the vets, trainers and jockeys, all of who make their living from racehorses? If we were to assess a small percentage on everyone who participates in the Thoroughbred industry, we could accomplish our mission without burdening any one sector… As I retire from TCA, my dream is that everyone in this industry understands.”

The first order of business for the board, according to Byars, is to do a study and take a hard look at the current state of horses in the state and how many are running free..

“We need to wrap our arms around how many horses are roaming the strip mine areas and the land between the lakes,” he said of just some of the places horses have been abandoned in Kentucky. “We need to get a census. We need to identify what the real extent of the problems are first by doing that kind of work.”

There are also some other goals for the Board, such as developing triage centers for unwanted horses, developing regional alliances, pursuing a voluntary certification program for rescue and retirement farms and developing educational programs that would educate everyone – horse people and non-horse people.

In addition, other states have already noticed the leadership role Kentucky has taken on the issue of the health and welfare of the horse. To date, New York, Texas and Louisiana, have already contacted the EHWA about trying to develop similar programs in their own states. Recently, Byars and Marcum travelled to Texas to give a presentation on this subject.

“Since the legislation has passed, Kentucky has moved from near the bottom as a state (in terms of the health and welfare of the horse), to a leadership role,” Byars said. “We would be happy to work with anybody. The EHWA would like to see regional alliances put together, too. Texas has emphasized that there may be a regional alliance to work with Oklahoma and Louisiana.”

One of the key provisions of the bill is the voluntary certification of rescues and retirement facilities. According to Byars, the purpose of this part of the bill would be to educate people on how to take care of horses. There would then be an inspection process, which the Board will have to develop, that would look at the facilities.

Ultimately, the goal would be to certify facilities as “accredited.” Then, a list of these accredited facilities would be put on the EHWA and the Equine Health and Welfare Board’s web sites, so that if people are looking for a place to voluntarily give up their horse, they would know where to go.

In time, according to Byars, the certification process could potentially extend beyond rescue and retirement facilities, and include all facilities, such as boarding stables.

“The Horse is Kentucky’s signature animal, but I think in many ways it has been taken for granted. It’s a species that pretty much has fallen through the cracks,” Byars said in an article that appeared in the Thoroughbred Times. “It’s protected by the benevolent people in our industry, but generally speaking, a lot of the horse industry doesn’t do as much proportionally for the animal itself.”

It will be the goal of the newly created Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Board to begin watching over and protecting the health and welfare of Kentucky’s horses, one of the most majestic animals on earth, and on whose back this entire nation was explored and developed.

If you would like to learn more about the Equine Health and Welfare Alliance and the Equine Health and Welfare Board, and to find out how you can help, please visit the Equine Health and Welfare Alliance Web site at for more information.

New Wyoming law allows options in handling abandoned horses

By TERRI ADAMS, The Prairie Star

Friday, April 23, 2010 4:32 PM MDT

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal has signed a new bill into state law that gives the Wyoming Board of Livestock three options in dealing with abandoned, estray, feral or abused animals that come under their control

The new law is an important step in dealing with the increase in cases the state has experienced since the shutting down of horse slaughter facilities, said Sue Wallis from the United Organizations of the Horse.

“All over the country, we have seen an enormous upsurge in the amount of abandoned and neglected horses. The reason for that is the shutting down of the horse slaughter plants and the downturn in the economy. This is a double whammy that has put the whole industry to its knees and horses are the ones who suffer the most,” she said.

Before the bill became law, Wyoming’s Board of Livestock was only allowed to place animals in a public sale in order to recover the cost of care, which cost the agency an average of $1,200 per horse. With a very small or nonexistent market for horses, especially those in poor condition, Wyoming taxpayers were facing the cost of caring for the animals.

“Wyoming has seen more than a tripling every year in the number of abandoned horses which has required emergency funding through the governor. The state has been unable to recoup the cost of care and feeding by selling the horses,” she said, adding that sometimes a horse would sell for as little as $10 per head and, in one instance, 237 head of horses were sold for $1 for the entire lot.

Most abandoned, neglected or estray animals are not wanted by the public because they do not show pleasure or work horse potential. This leaves them at the mercy of the remaining meat buyers who only purchase horses large enough to justify shipping them to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. The journey and end results are traumatic on the horses shipped but staying behind was not much better.

With the new law, Wyoming can now sell the horses through a public sale just as before, or they can have the horse slaughtered in a state-inspected facility, or they can have a veterinarian destroy the animal. The in-state slaughtering will protect the horses from having to endure long, traumatic trips to foreign facilities.

“Under the current national situation, we can have horses slaughtered here,” she said.

Even though the horse processing plants have been shut down in the nation, it is still legal to slaughter horses and consume their meat in 45 states.

Wallis said after the animal has been slaughtered the inspected meat can be donated for human consumption within the state, or the meat can be sold outside of the state for pet food or to zoos and other facilities needing meat to feed carnivores and birds of prey.

“That option allows the state to recoup some of their costs,” said Wallis, noting that one company in Canada imports over a million pounds of horse meat annually to meet the demands of zoos and other facilities.

“And that’s just one company. There are at least three other companies supplying meat to our zoos,” she said.

As a third option, the law also allows for the animal to be put down.

Wallis said the new law benefits the state and the horses, allowing three different options for the best possible outcome.

Her organization is currently working with Dr. Temple Grandin, of Colorado State University, to design a padded, humane squeeze chute approved by the American Association of Equine Practi-tioners, the professional association for horse veterinarians. The chute will slowly close and gently hold the animal in place. They are working to build a model that can be used across the country to help states deal with the increase in abandoned and neglected horses, and to provide a humane option for horse owners.

“We envision a whole integrated system. We want to provide a way for livestock agencies or law enforcement agencies to deal with the abandoned horses that arrive in their care,” she said.

The United Organizations of the Horse’s existing 501C3 educational and charitable nonprofit, the United Horsemen’s Front, will allow people to donate their unwanted horses before they are abused or abandoned.

“We will take their horses and they will get a tax deductible receipt for the full value of their horse. Then we will put the horses into a program to rejuvenate them, to get them back in good condition,” she said.

“We have professionals working with us – veterinarians, equine specialists and trainers. They have access to the horses and will help us sort them so if one has potential as a pleasure, performance, or working horses we would move that horse into a different program.”

Wallis’ hope is to collaborate with college equine programs and professional trainers where the students can care for them, train or retrain them and then sell them.

“They would be put back into useful purpose,” she said.

After the sale the organization would keep back their cost and student would take the rest in profit.

Only those horses that do not have any prospect for a useful purpose but are healthy and in relatively good condition would be processed in a manner which handles them calmly, euthanizes them with relatively little stress, and then utilizes the meat and other products for good and useful purposes.

The new law, and the system being designed and implemented by the United Organizations of the Horse, with its extra options, provides a win-win situation for everyone, most importantly the animals, according to Wallis.

The bill HB 122 – Disposal of Livestock is located on the Internet at the site of For information about the legislation or the United Organizations of the Horse, contact Wallis at 307-680-8515, or e-mail at


Bill to deal with stray horses goes to Beshear

By Gregory A. Hall and Joseph Gerth • The Courier-Journal • March 29, 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill to help local governments deal with stray and abandoned horses received final approval in the House Monday and now goes to Gov. Steve Beshear.

The House concurred in a title amendment to House Bill 251, which was the Senate’s only change to the bill.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dwight Butler, R-Harned, establishes a process under which the horses could be taken in, with a three-month period for the owner to reclaim animals. If an owner did reclaim a horse, the person who cared for it would be reimbursed.

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Ky. passes bill to help unwanted horses

By Roger Alford • The Associated Press • April 1, 2010

FRANKFORT – A bill to protect unwanted, neglected and sometimes abused horses was approved Thursday by Kentucky lawmakers.

The legislation, which now goes to Gov. Steve Beshear for consideration, calls attention to the plight of mistreated horses in a state that’s better known for its pampered thoroughbreds grazing on manicured pastures and of course, the Kentucky Derby.

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Bluegrass Politics

March 25, 2010. By John Cheves –

FRANKFORT — The Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday approved a bill to establish the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Council, which would gather data on the well-being of Kentucky’s signature animal and recommend improvements.

First, the committee amended parts of House Bill 398, tweaking the 15-member council’s name and moving it from the Public Protection Cabinet to the Agriculture Department, among other changes.

Rep. Tom McKee, the bill’s sponsor, said Kentucky needs to address the fate of neglected, abused and unwanted horses, some of which are turned out at the end of their productive careers. The council’s interest would extend “from Derby winners to the Shetland pony in your backyard,” said McKee, D-Cynthiana.

The bill proceeds to the full Senate.


Kentucky considers legislation to help unwanted horses

Louisville Courier Journal

March 25, 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Lawmakers are considering legislation that would create a council to find ways to deal with Kentucky’s growing number of abandoned horses.

One of the responsibilities of the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Council would be to develop regional centers to care for unwanted, abused and neglected horses.

Horse advocates are pressing to get the measure through the law-making process in the waning days of the legislative session. The Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved the measure Thursday.

Lexington veterinarian Frank Dwayne Marcum said Kentucky, which bills itself as the horse capital of the world, needs to be the national leader in dealing with the problem.


Horse protection bill advances in Ky. legislature

USA Today

By Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press Writer
FRANKFORT, Ky. — In Kentucky, sleek thoroughbreds are venerated as a state symbol, but existence can be grim for some horses lacking such stellar bloodlines.

A group of veterinarians urged lawmakers Wednesday to create a state board to help ensure the health and safety of Kentucky’s equine population — from racehorses to plodders

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Panel backs horse rescue standards board

Louisville Courier Journal

By Gregory A. Hall • • February 17, 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A board to recommend voluntary standards for horse rescue and retirement shelters, and suggest ways for the state to deal with abandoned horses, would be created under a bill that unanimously passed the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee Wednesday.

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Feb. 17, 2010
FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky House Agriculture and Small Business Committee moved today to provide more protection for the horse.
House Bill 398 garnered unanimous support and passed the committee without a single dissenting vote. The bill will create the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Board under the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet to assist, advise and consult with the Cabinet on issues of equine health and welfare and will take action to help maintain the health, welfare, and safety of equines in the Commonwealth. The bill will also create an equine health and welfare trust fund to be administered by the Board to promote equine health, welfare, and safety.
HB 398 is sponsored by Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana, who chairs the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee.

“This bill will move the horse industry forward,” said McKee, a Harrison County farmer. “We are concerned about the health and welfare of the horse, and this bill helps address those concerns.”Co-sponsoring the bipartisan legislation is 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. The bill now heads to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill is the first major initiative of the newly-formed Equine Health and Welfare Alliance, (EHWA) a Kentucky-based corporation dedicated to the proper care, maintenance, and treatment of the horse and all equines. Organized by a group of leading equine veterinarians, EHWA, Inc. is the first organization in the United States dedicated solely to improving the care and welfare of equines. While the core membership and origin of EHWA, Inc. consists of veterinarians, the Alliance is not limited to veterinarians and welcomes the involvement of other individuals, organizations, philanthropies, and companies interested in improving the welfare of the horse.

“While Kentucky is recognized world-wide for its equine industry, many horses and other equids in the Commonwealth, particularly those outside of thoroughbred racing circles, may be subject to inhumane treatment and some horse-rescue operations in the state lack the standards of quality needed or lack sufficient oversight,” said Dr. Doug Byars, DVM, a founding member of the EHWA and a renowned equine veterinarian from Georgetown, Ky. “This legislation will help protect the equine, who cannot take care of themselves, and help make Kentucky a leader in the nation in the area of care and welfare for all equine.”

The Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Board will have responsibility for the following:

· 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.

· Create a system of voluntary certification of equine rescue and retirement operations that meet industry-accepted standards for 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 equines by identifying and referring to the appropriate authorities critical areas of need.

For more information, and to follow the progress of HB 398, visit

CONTACT: Patrick Crowley, spokesman



Bill advances allowing vets to report abuse

Louisville Courier-Journal

FRANKFORT, Ky. – A bill aimed at allowing veterinarians to report abuse of their clients’ animals unanimously passed the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee on Wednesday.

Currently, veterinarians cannot report suspected abuse involving their clients because of confidentiality requirements.

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