Kentucky considers measure to help unwanted horsesFRANKFORT, Ky. — With time running out, lawmakers pressed ahead Thursday with legislation intended to help unwanted, neglected and sometimes abused horses.
By: Roger Alford, Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. — With time running out, lawmakers pressed ahead Thursday with legislation intended to help unwanted, neglected and sometimes abused horses.
The Senate Agriculture Committee heard stark testimony that contradicted the idyllic image fostered by Kentucky tourism officials of pampered thoroughbreds grazing on manicured pastures.
Lexington veterinarian Frank D. Marcum told lawmakers about grim realities some horses face as he lobbied for legislation that would create the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Council.
“Kentucky should be the leader in all matters relating to the overall well-being and humane care of this animal,” Marcum said. “Yet the horse itself has never been the beneficiary of a secured life of dignity.”
The Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved legislation to form the council, which in turn would create regional centers to care for unwanted horses and would establish standards for existing rescue centers. With five days remaining in the legislative session, the measure still needs approval from the full Senate. And because it has been modi-fied slightly, it has to go back to the House, where it previously passed 98-0, for final approval.
State Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana, sponsor of the legislation, said the intent is to offer protections for all horses “from the Shetland pony in your backyard to the winner of the Kentucky Derby.”
Marcum said overpopulation of horses, coupled with the economic downturn, has created hardships that shouldn’t be ignored.
“Seldom a week goes by that animal abuse and neglect issues are not profiled in the media,” he said. “While these stories are difficult to watch and read, they are stories that should be told, exposing a problem that must be acknowledged and addressed.”
Marcum said he has heard reports of people who could no longer afford to feed horses turning them loose on public lands to fend for themselves. Some of the abandoned horses end up on private land, creating problems for landowners that are being addressed in a separate bill.
That measure, which shortens the statutory wait time for adopting stray horses, is expected to get a final vote in the House before the legislative session ends.
Raquel Ferotti, founder of Mountain View Rescue in Columbia, said Thursday he has taken in numerous horses “extremely emaciated,” some of which were strays found wandering alonside roadways.
“I think the problem in Kentucky is that we have laws for abuse and neglect, but they’re not being enforced,” Ferotti said. “We can have all the laws in the world, but if they’re not being enforced, they’re not doing the horses any good.”
The legislation is House Bills 251 and 398.