The Kentucky Senate Agriculture Committee today unanimously passed a bill that would designate equines as livestock, an action that if approved will provide tremendous benefit the entire horse industry. Securing livestock classification of horses and equine has been among the top policy priorities of the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), since being founded in 2004.
Sen. Robin Webb of Grayson County sponsored Senate Bill 139, which she said she'd been working on for several years.
“Our statutes have been historically inconsistent with the designation of the horse as livestock. We have the support of AAEP, which has taken this position publicly, as well as our major horse-industry groups,” Webb told her fellow committee members before their vote, referencing the American Association of Equine Practitioners, which represents veterinarians of all horse breeds and disciplines. “Seven years ago today, I got my favorite horse. He's a big part of my life, and I love him. He's my companion, but he's not a companion animal. He's livestock. It's important to myself as an owner and him as a horse to be so designated, and designated consistently for protections that designation does allow.”
Sen. Damon Thayer, the Republican's majority floor leader from Georgetown, hopes the bill can go to the Senate floor later this week. “I think it has a great chance to pass the Senate,” added Thayer. ”Then we'll send it on over to the House and see if we can get agreement from them.”
“SB 139 would be a great step forward for the horse industry as a whole,” stated KEEP executive director Joe Clabes. “Designation as livestock is the most reflective of the realties of breeding, owning and caring for horse and we're proud to stand in support of this bill with the AAEP and the numerous Kentucky horse organizations from across the state.”
Webb stressed the designation is important to make sure that horses are not classified as companion animals, similar to household pets. She emphasized that her bill did not deal with taxation, with the state's 6-percent sales tax required when buying feed, bedding and equipment used for equines, with all other livestock exempt.
“We hope to address that at another time, with tax reform or in another measure,” Webb said. “It's designation of the horse being what it is: And that's livestock.”
Several of the committee members clearly were sympathetic toward tax equality for the horse industry.
“As chair of the horse farm subcommittee in the Senate, I couldn't vote any other way on this legislation,” said Sen. Steve West, who lives in Paris and whose district includes some of the most famous Thoroughbred farms in the world. “Basically, it's equity and fairness for the horse industry.”
“In this state, for years, there seemed to be walls and barriers between one livestock group and another. But this seems to be a way we can bring some of our producers together and put equine on the same page as all the other livestock groups. It's not a complicated thing. Horses are livestock. Unfortunately this doesn't apply to taxes, but as we go into tax reform in the fall, maybe we can take a look at that.”
Said Thayer: “I think horses are livestock, and should be treated as such in the tax code. I'm hopeful some day, when we do tax reform, we can get tax parity for the equine industry. I think this bill is a good step in the right direction.”
Agriculture commissioner Ryan Quarles, who represented Scott County as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, applauded the action.
“It's a clarification that has been attempted for several years now,” Quarles said. “As agriculture commissioner, I always remind people of the economic impact that horses have in Kentucky. It's a signature industry, one that creates literally tens of thousands of jobs, and billions of dollars of investment here in Kentucky. As I continue my term as commissioner, I will be supporting not only our family farms, but our family horse farmers as well.”
Said Sen. Dorsey Ridley of Henderson, whose district includes Ellis Park: “It just puts them all (livestock) in one classification. It's an effort to make sure that horses are certainly not taken advantage of, but by the same token, it's to protect our property. I was glad to be a part of it. It is a big thing for the Thoroughbred industry — and for all horses.”
“This legislation is a significant step for the horse industry and our membership,” said Martin Maline, executive director of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association, which represents about 6,000 owners and trainers involved in horse racing in the commonwealth. “The livestock designation offers other important protections for everyone who owns and works with horses. We applaud members of committee, and hope Senator Webb's bill sails through the full Senate and state legislature.”
Clabes added, “I'd like to congratulate Senator Webb, Chairman (Paul) Hornback, and Majority Floor Leader Thayer in advancing this long awaited legislation. Success in Frankfort doesn't happen overnight and they and many of their colleagues in the Senate and the House have put in a lot of work on this issue over the years.”
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