Standing in front of the statue of Man o’ War at the Kentucky Horse Park June 7, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear applauded passage of landmark legislation that will enhance the health and welfare of the horse.
Beshear signed House Bill 398 during a ceremony that included First Lady Jane Beshear and Kentucky agriculture commissioner Richie Farmer.
House Bill 398 passed the Kentucky General Assembly in April with nearly unanimous bipartisan support. The legislation establishes the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Council, the first of its kind in the nation.
Beshear made special mention of ceremoniously signing the bill at The Kentucky Horse Park, which this fall hosts the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
“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,” Gov. Beshear said in a statement. “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.”
First Lady Jane Beshear was a staunch supporter of the legislation.
“As a long-time equine enthusiast, I fully support the humane treatment of the horses that have been such an important part of Kentucky’s heritage,” Jane Beshear said in a release. “Thanks to this bill, many endangered horses and farm animals will be saved from starvation and neglect.”
“We are grateful this administration and legislature has seen fit to provide Kentucky the framework to begin addressing the needs of the animal that means so much to this state and country,” said Dr. Frank Dwayne Marcum, an equine veterinarian from Versailles and president of the Kentucky-based Equine Health and Welfare Alliance, in a release.
“All one has to do is take a quick look around this great world-recognized facility to realize the impact the horse has had on our history,” Marcum continued. “It is our responsibility to see that every effort is made to secure the welfare of the animal that brings so much pleasure and economy this state. With this piece of legislation serving as a template, Kentucky can now lead the way for other states in support of basic care for all horses.”
House Bill 398 creates the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Council under the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. The Council will assist, advise, and consult with the department 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 legislation was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Tom McKee.
“It is an honor to work with people so committed to the equine industry,” said McKee, a veteran legislator and Harrison County farmer, in a statement. “Thank you to everyone who has made this day possible. This is a very positive step for our signature industry in Kentucky.”
Co-sponsoring the bipartisan legislation are Democratic Reps. Royce Adams, Charlie Hoffman, Kent Stevens, Don Pasley, Susan Westrom, and Wilson Stone; and Republican Rep. Ron Crimm.
Rep. McKee also thanked Republican Sen. David Givens, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, for supporting the bill and assisting in its passage.
The bill is the first major initiative of the Equine Health and Welfare Alliance, a Kentucky-based non-profit corporation dedicated to the proper care, maintenance, and treatment of the horse and all equines.
Organized last fall by a group of leading equine veterinarians, EHWA is dedicated solely to improving the care and welfare of equines. While the core membership and origin of EHWA 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.
Along with Dr. Marcum founding members of the EHWA are veterinarians Dr. Doug Byars, Dr. Mike Cavey, Dr. Norm Umphenhour, and Dr. Gary Lavin.
The Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Council will:
• 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 on HB 398 and the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Alliance visit www.equinehealthandwelfare.org.