Sales Transparency at Heart of New Florida Law

Sales Transparency at Heart of New Florida Law
Photo: Associated Press
Florida Governor Charlie Crist
A bill that empowers Florida’s state government to set rules regarding transparency issues in the sale of horses was recently signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist.

The law gives the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services the right to examine conditions of sales and adopt rules to “prevent unfair or deceptive trade practices” in regards to relevant ownership, dual agency, medical and surgical disclosures, as well as mandate the need for written bills of sale.

An exception is made for sales resulting from claiming races at licensed pari-mutuel facilities. The law’s 133 words of language covering horse sales, which was an amendment offered by Republican representative Juan Zapata of Miami-Dade, is part of a broader bill sponsored by Zapata involving agritourism and other agricultural matters.

A Florida Department of Agriculture spokesman contacted July 6 said there wasn’t anyone immediately available to comment on the new law.

Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. director of sales and general manager Tom Ventura said the law lays ground work for fine-tuning existing Florida laws involving horse sales.

“We are looking forward to working with the Department to put out rules that make sense for everyone, and coincide with the health and welfare of the horse,” Ventura said.

The law covers both public and private horse sales in the state of Florida.

A news release issued July 5 indicates one backer of the legislation was prominent owner-breeder Earle I. Mack, who, his attorney said, hopes the law becomes a model for other states.

“The legislation mandates that the Agency examine existing practices and draft rules to address deceptive practices,” said attorney Joel B. Turner of Frost Todd Brown of Louisville, Ky. “The rules would need to include appropriate remedies at law for the buyer for a seller’s violation of an Agency rule.

“Rescission of the sale is the most effective and meaningful remedy for the buyer under such circumstances, but Kentucky and California have also provided for civil penalties to be assessed against the seller or seller’s agent, including treble damages and attorney’s fees to be paid to the offended buyer.”

Former Florida governor Bob Martinez, now a senior policy advisor with a law firm in Tampa, Fla., told The Blood-Horse public dialogue will be sought before any rules will be enacted.

“Step one was passing the law that would allow for the rules to be put in place,” said Martinez, who is part of the Holland Knight law firm, which Mack contracted to help “steer the bill” through the Florida legislature, according to the release. “The bill could have been longer if every aspect of disclosure was addressed; if every ‘i’ was dotted and every ‘t’ was crossed. But you can’t take on something like this without public input.”

An attempt to introduce somewhat similar disclosure legislation into Kentucky law was tabled earlier this year. Specific language of the legislation backed by owner-breeder Jess Jackson is currently being reviewed by the Sales Integrity Task Force, which includes participants from several breeds.

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