Language Harmful to Horse Industry Stripped From Bill

Language that could have halted the import and export of horses was removed from the federal Agriculture Appropriations Act after lobbying by the horse industry.

Weeks of lobbying by the horse industry were successful the evening of Aug. 2, when the United States House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to remove from the Agriculture Appropriations Act language that could have stymied transportation of horses by halting funding for inspections.

The House voted 237-18 to strike the language, which would have prohibited the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service from performing horse health monitoring and regulatory work. That would have impacted quarantine facilities such as the one used for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and stopped the import and export of horses.

Industry groups led by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the American Horse Council urged the House to remove the language.  House members reportedly received more than 100 phone calls and numerous email messages on the issue.

“A lot of people worked on this,” AHC president Jay Hickey said. “We clearly got the House’s attention.”

Keith Chamblin, an NTRA spokesman, said the organization was “very pleased the House responded to the industry’s concerns."   The stricken language would have had far-reaching negative consequences for all equine disciplines, he added, calling the bill as originally drafted "a poor piece of legislation.”

The Bush administration opposed the language that would have prohibited APHIS inspections.  In a July 31 policy statement, it also expressed concern over potential withholding of funding for the National Animal Identification System, a voluntary program involving the equine industry. 

The statement said the White House “strongly opposes” the full Agriculture Appropriations Act, which exceeds President Bush’s request for funding by almost $1 billion.  Combined with other fiscal year 2008 appropriations bills, it said, the bill calls for “an irresponsible and excess level of spending and includes other objectionable provisions.”

Meanwhile, representatives John Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, and Ben Chandler and Ed Whitfield of Kentucky succeeded in inserting a provision in the measure to ban funding for federal officials who inspect horses bound for slaughterhouses. The United States Department of Agriculture has been charging a fee for such inspections, but a federal appeals court is determining the legality of that practice.

A motion to strike the amendment failed during the Aug. 2 debate on the bill.

“With anti-slaughter laws in Illinois and Texas, and now with this anti-slaughter language in a major spending bill in Congress, the writing is on the wall for the Belgian-owned slaughter plants in the United States,” Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, said in an Aug. 3 release. “The American people and their elected representatives want an end to horse slaughter -- not later, but right now.”