Kentucky House Approves ‘Imperative’ Bill Classifying Horses As Livestock

by | 03.16.2017 | 8:32am
State senator Robin Webb, the bill's sponsor, worked on the issue for several years

The Kentucky House of Representatives Wednesday unanimously passed Senate Bill 139, which would amend the definition of livestock in Kentucky to include horses and equines. The bill now moves to Governor Matt Bevin for his signature. Securing livestock classification has been among the top policy priorities of the Kentucky Equine Education Project since its 2004 creation.

“SB 139 is an important step forward for the Kentucky horse industry, and legislative success like this is a product of years of commitment and hard work,” said KEEP Chairman Corey Johnsen. “Many KEEP members have been instrumental in getting this legislation to this point, but we owe particular recognition to Frank Penn for being a tireless leader and advocate on this issue from the start.”

“Having horses and equines included as livestock in Kentucky law has been a key policy priority for KEEP since its founding over 12 years ago,” said Penn, KEEP Board member and Chairman of the organization's Equine Sales Tax Equity Task Force. “I applaud the Kentucky legislature for their unanimous support of SB 139 and recognizing horses' rightful place along side other agriculture commodities in Kentucky.”

Senator Robin Webb, an accomplished horsewoman from Carter County, sponsored the bill, a measure she's worked on for several years.

“The continued and consistent designation of equine as livestock is imperative for the ownership and utilization of the animals that we have relied on for centuries,” Webb said. “The equine industry contributes to the quality of life for Kentuckians and the economic bottom line of the Commonwealth.”

SB 139 does not address the state's 6-percent sales tax on feed, bedding and equipment used for horses.


All other livestock are exempt for sales tax on those necessities. However, passage of the bill does strengthen the case for tax equity.

Rep. Susan Westrom, whose district is in Fayette County, said the measure is a major step toward putting horses on equal footing with other livestock.

“I am pleased to know that my colleagues finally understand that the equine industry in their own backyard was never treated ‘business friendly' by the state,” Westrom said.

Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne of Oldham County said the action “highlights the importance of the horse industry to our overall agricultural economy.”

“Finally, horses in Kentucky have received the proper designation as livestock,” he said. “For years, our statutes have been unclear with the designation of horses, and as a result one of our signature industries has suffered. This designation will clear the way for tax equity and other legal parity within the entire equine industry, which will strengthen the future for years to come.

“Additionally, despite some confusion, this bill in no way opens the door for horse slaughter in Kentucky, or weakens horse protection laws. In fact, on this same day, the Legislature gave final passage to House Bill 200 to make it easier for local officials to intervene and remove horses in abuse and neglect cases. These bills combined will greatly benefit the entire equine industry in Kentucky, and help to solidify our global role as the Horse Capital of the World.”

Osborne, an owner of both Thoroughbreds and Saddlebreds, said the bill affords protections to horse farmers in ways that might surprise people.

“You can't be included in an agricultural conservation district unless you are a livestock and agricultural enterprise,” he said. “Well, horses were not included in that definition until now. It gives you certain advantages and legal standings as far as zoning, city annexation, things like that…. Right now, it's a crime to cut somebody's fences if they have cattle or other livestock. But horses are not defined in that statute.”

Rep. Richard Heath of Mayfield, head of the House Agriculture Committee, said SB 139 makes an overdue correction.

“As Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, I am pleased to lend a hand to the equine industry in Kentucky and vote to classify horses as livestock, which brings long-overdue fairness and equity,” he said. “I am proud to support every type of farm in Kentucky, whether it be a family farm, a dairy farm, a crop farm, or a horse farm. Today we finally righted a wrong: Horses belong in the livestock classification where they are overseen by the Department of Agriculture, and not in the companion animal or pet classification.”

Other members of the House Agriculture Committee voiced equally strong endorsements.

“Horses in Kentucky are a staple, and in Central Kentucky we not only have scores of internationally renowned farms but we have the tourist and competition draw of the Kentucky Horse Park,” said Rep. Phillip Pratt of Georgetown. “After all these years of interested parties attempting to make this change, I'm proud to be a part of the new voice in Kentucky that respects and takes action to protect this multi-billion dollar industry that employs tens of thousands of hard-working Kentuckians. Our action todaywill ensure the success of the industry for generations to come.”

“As a cattle farmer with my husband, I am keenly aware of the previous livestock classification issues in Kentucky,” said Rep. Kim King of Harrodsburg. “In the past, horses have been left out of this important classification, and it has taken its toll on the industry. However, with this passage, Kentucky now accurately classifies horses as livestock. This move will create the foundation for further progress, including tax implications, and will offer the protections that the equine industry deserves. I commend the leadership shown by all involved to create parity that should have been granted years ago.”

“This legislation is a crucial step forward in recognizing the importance that the equine industry has in our Commonwealth,” said Rep. Dean Schamore of Hardinsburg. “Senate Bill 139 affords protection for the industry not currently included in statute, and I am glad to support this significant measure.”

Rep. Wilson Stone, whose district includes Ellis Park, called it “a good day when we can recognize Kentucky livestock.”

“The stockmen of Kentucky have historically and traditionally considered horses as part of their livestock,” Stone said. “Sometimes they are the livestock in which owners take the most pride. SB 139 simply shows respect to horses and stockmen by placing horses in our statutes where livestock is referenced.”

Said Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Scott County: “I'm pleased that SB 139 has passed the House and is headed to Governor Bevin's desk. Redefining horses as livestock is an appropriate step to take in the Horse Capital of the World.”

“The legislature's understanding of the importance of this issue is demonstrated by its unanimous approval in the Senate and the House,” said Joe Clabes, KEEP executive director. “We'd like to thank and congratulate Sen. Webb for introducing consensus legislation and guiding it through the legislative process. We also appreciated the support we received from (Kentucky Agriculture) Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who attend both Committee hearings to support SB 139. It is gratifying to see such strong bipartisan support for Kentucky's horse industry.”

  • Larry Sterne

    Glad to see it. One question what we’re horses classified under old rules? and what was the logic?

  • Ida Lee

    If I’m reading this correctly, the purpose for this new classification is really just for tax purposes…and the deduction in taxes for having “livestock” which in effect turns “pets” into a business….and you get the tax deductions for them and their care and maintenance….Now, isn’t the professional TB athlete a business? Thus, this law would not affect the TB or horse racing …right?

    • snazzygirl

      Horse racing has always been a tax deductible business. This new classification of horses as livestock identifies them as an agricultural commodity like cattle and sheep. It may have to do more with the classification of horse farms as agricultural property so property taxes can be reduced. It also affords the laws protecting cattle and sheep as livelihood for farmers to apply to horses. Normally no sales tax is charged on products purchased for livestock…..as in cattle, sheep and pigs. This article states that is not yet the case for horses, but it opens the door for it to happen in the future. This change in law has a lot to do with how horse farms (which do not ‘grow’ an agricultural product up to now) are regarded in terms of taxation in Kentucky.

      • Ida Lee

        Thanks …. that’s what I thought ….

      • Lina_TX

        I wasn’t aware of the big stud farms having a problem with paying taxes, so, are we talking here about small operations, aka backyard breeders? If so, what exactly would be the market for their “product”?

        • snazzygirl

          It’s always difficult to make income breeding, selling, or racing horses. That’s why it’s the ‘Sport of Kings’…..as in kings having lots of money. If you investigate federal tax laws regarding horses, especially the depreciation schedules, and the fact that state law designating farms as livestock operations rather than hobby farms helps lower property taxes, then you realize why a lot of rich people suddenly buy large horse operations, and why rich families breed/race horses for generations. Whether you’re a backyard breeder or not, this change in designation helps Kentucky breeders.

          • Lina_TX

            I am concerned that this will lead to more thoroughbreds being bred, just because some low $ operation has a few TB mares and has access to an affordable stallion whose owners aren’t too concerned about just breeding to the best possible mares. As it is, there are still too many TB foals born each year, too many that don’t attract a pinhooker, too many that don’t get any bids. In short, too many that face a doubtful future, with the very real possibility of ending up with the meat man.

          • Gayle

            45% of foals born in the racing industry end at slaughter.. great sport huh :(

    • Mary C Johnson

      Actually this is a dream come true for the TB “business”, next in line is tax exempt status. “All other livestock are exempt for sales tax on those necessities. However, passage of the bill does strengthen the case for tax equity.” I am appalled, but so not surprised. This is about money, and not the welfare of an animal that suffers unbelievable cruelty in the “industry” and had little protection. Now, there is none. The statutes are available to read for anyone actually interested. I have them bookmarked. I am so happy that my tax dollars no longer support that level of cruelty.

      • Ida Lee

        OK ….you’ve lost me….you’re starting to sound like PETA…I admire organizations and people who work for animal welfare and humane treatment but some go overboard in their “rhetoric” and do more harm than good ….sorry Mary, you’re not helping ….

      • billy

        Post the link

    • billy

      All horses all breeds precious chrome Will now be compared to a donkey wtf

      • snazzygirl

        Only in your world.

    • billy

      This law means that any rules that apply to livestock now apply to horses except the tax exemption on sales and supplies government still wants there cut look into livestock classification and see the rules for yourself when’s the last time you heard of a cow being protected this opens the door to slaughter the way they can be transported the care level you have to give everything it’s not a pretty sight for the animal in my opinion I would like to see the statues to this law and what the laws For livestock are in this state

  • Robin Webb

    The bill strengthens the designation of equines as livestock in Kentucky. The statutes were not consistent in the designation, so this is a clarification and protection for the designation. There are several reasons why the livestock designation is important, including humane laws, state and federal qualifying criteria for programs, research, disease and disaster aid, corporate and some tax treatment, but, primarily to separate them from companion animal designation. Animal rights groups desire companion or pet status to make it difficult to own or use an animal. This measure does not address the sales tax exemption issue, although, I have filed those bills in the past. It is my hope that parity for tax purposes across the board will eventually be achieved.

    • RayPaulick

      Senator Webb: Thank you for clarifying this for our readers and for your support of a horse industry that I know you love.

      • Mary C Johnson

        This literally rips the doors off slaughter, which we fought for years to stop. It also rips any humane laws from horses, as there are no laws protecting livestock from cruelty. KY consistently and progressively protects its right to hold the single worst designation for animal welfare in the entire country and has ranked at the bottom of that list for as long as there has been a compilation of animal welfare laws. If you are an animal, KY is literally the only state that allows a human to have sex with an animal. It’s not illegal. That bill didn’t even make it to the floor. Good Job, KY. Glad my tax dollars no longer support that.

        • Minneola

          Unless I am mistaken, the slaughtering of horses is not allowed by federal law rather than state. However, the new federal administration does seem to want to reduce various regulations. Trust this law will not be one of them but I also do not believe that the U.S. public will allow it. It’s the public that I have more confidence and trust in. Keep in mind that much of the general public does not support horse racing any longer because they see too many cheaters running the sport as well as concerned about the welfare of these magnificent equine creatures. Have faith but be prepared to fight if necessary.

          • billy

            Have faith in Kentucky animal laws ya ok this isn’t for the good of the horses know that much

          • snazzygirl

            Ray, how come I can’t vote this post DOWN? billy, I doubt you even own horses in KY, much less anywhere else. Otherwise, you wouldn’t post something so wrong.

          • billy

            Your right animal welfare in ky is number 1 priority… what was I thinking

    • Jackie Ruggiero

      Doesn’t even make sense…”desire companion or pet status to make it difficult to own or use an animal”…but companion or pet status is the very definition of owning an animal. If tax parity was the goal..you could have passed a bill to accomplish that without the redesignation as livestock. There is only one reason for this and that’s to open the door for horse slaughter. At least be honest about it.

      • Robin Webb

        Tax parity is A goal. Horses are already designated livestock in statute, just not all statutes. You are mistaken and sound like the HSUS.

        • What a terrible slur! We sound like the HSUS! Personally, I think I sound like like PeTA actually.

  • Mary C Johnson

    This literally rips the doors off slaughter, which we fought for years to stop. It also rips any humane laws from horses, as there are no laws protecting livestock from cruelty. KY consistently and progressively protects its right to hold the single worst designation for animal welfare in the entire country and has ranked at the bottom of that list for as long as there has been a compilation of animal welfare laws. If you are an animal, KY is literally the only state that allows a human to have sex with an animal. It’s not illegal. That bill didn’t even make it to the floor. Good Job, KY. Glad my tax dollars no longer support that.

  • ziggypop

    And the doors to slaughter are thrown wide open by the hypocrites who proclaim how much they love their horses.

    Another state to boycott.

  • A lot of double-speak and euphemisms used by these people. Rest assured that any time a segment of the “livestock” industry speaks about what’s good for equines, it will have the exact opposite effect.

  • Ida Lee

    Wow, somebody is pissed at me…for the record, both me and my husband have worked with animal welfare for many years….mostly small animals in shelters..but I’m in NC….Also, yes I know about the dismal laws in KY which appear not to care about, of all things, horses…I read a very interesting article on the PR regarding that not too long ago. I was going to apologize if I offended you but I don’t think I will….You apparently appear to know much more about this subject than I do but I think I’ll look elsewhere for someone with a little more communication skills. If people don’t get what you’re saying, maybe, just maybe, it might be your fault. Also, “You, in fact, are the one NOT helping”….Really, are we 10 years old ??? Anyway, I’ve never had livestock nor horses but did a little research and found out what I needed to know. P.S. I do admire people who love animals and are so fervent about their welfare as you are (no matter what).

  • snazzygirl

    What is heaven’s name are you talking about? IF you’re really worked in the ‘horse industry,’ as in a well-known TB breeding farm, you would KNOW the opposite is true. I worked at the best-known TB breeding farm in CA, and every expense was made to protect horses. After all, the horses are their business investment. I think you’re blowing a lot of hot air and smoke. The ban against horse slaughter is a FEDERAL law, and the KY bill had everything to do with tax status of horses. What livestock operation would deliberately be cruel to their animals, whether they’re cattle, sheep, pigs, or horses? They depend on those animals for their livelihood. You’re definitely a PETA nut.

    • Gayle

      you do not seem to know much about the AG industry if you think livestock operations are NOT cruel to cattle sheep and pigs. Why is it many of these places do not want to allow video of their operations ? Yes, livestock operations are cruel to their animals. Sure they depend on their animals for livelihood, BUT do some easy research or pull the head out of the sand. I am sure you can google animal cruelty on factory farms there will be plenty of info for you.

      • snazzygirl

        I’m going to ask you a question, Gayle – ‘cruelty’ according to who? I doubt your definition of cruelty would be the same as an animal’s. Maybe an animal wants to be in a pen, which is safe, with plenty of food to eat and water to drink. Have you asked it? Did you get an answer? Humans have this thing called anthropomorphism – maybe you’ve heard of it. This is known – an unhappy or stressed animal does not put on weight, and a farmer’s livelihood depends on the weight of his livestock. Ergo, his animals get fed and watered and treated for disease, etc. Another question – are you vegan?

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