The most recent version of rules governing horse sales in Florida were published for public comment May 9. The regulations are being touted as a successful compromise by some of those involved in the process.
The rules, which were developed over several months of public meetings and private negotiations between sometimes warring horsemen interests in the state, were published online on the Florida Administrative Weekly Web site. Included in the latest version are expanded rules for writing bills of sale and disclosure, as well as the reporting of medical history, including some mandatory requirements for disclosing certain procedures.
The current version is published for a 21-day comment period, and if no objections are filed with the state government, they will be considered official.
An official with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which was charged by a 2007 law to promulgate rules governing horse sales, applauded the efforts of the horsemen who got together and hammered out a compromise on differing issues.
“Whenever you reach a compromise, it is always done without everyone getting what they want,” said Kerry Flack, assistant director of marketing and development for the FDACS, who moderated most public hearings on the rules. “But I think all groups realized that change was going to be required. Hopefully, these will go through, and we can continue to evaluate their impact down the road. I think everyone wants these to be successful.”
Horse owner-breeder Earle I. Mack, who pushed for the eventual passage of the legislation that required the rule-making, said the rules couldn’t have been written without the diligent cooperation of differing sides.
“They all made an earnest effort to accomplish the proposal of the breakthrough administrative rules,” Mack said. “And without their ultimate cooperation and participation, these rules would not be possible.”
Among the highlights of the revised rules are those declaring:
--An “agent or trainer” shall not purchase or recommend purchase of a horse to their principal in which the agent/trainer has a “legal or equitable ownership interest, either directly or through an entity in which the agent or trainer exercises any ownership or control,” without declaring the interest in writing.
--Public auction companies must establish a “medical information center” for records to be placed at the choosing of the owner or agent, and that auction companies can require certain types of medical history to be placed there.
--A horse subjected to certain treatments seven days prior to the private sale of a horse must have that information disclosed to a buyer. The cited treatments include extra-corporal shockwave therapy; radio pulse-wave therapy; acupuncture, electro-stimulation, or both, (specifically “with the intent or effect of altering laryngeal function of the horse”); and internal blister or other injections behind the knee, “which are intended to or which have the effect of concealing the true conformation of the horse.”
--The use of any electrical or mechanical device designed or used to shock or prod a horse is barred …when it is being exhibited prior to sale, “except for the use of a whip, spurs, or items otherwise permitted by the rules of the governing breed association, federation, or other regulatory body.”
--The prohibition of the above treatments in horses offered at public auction while they are on sale grounds.
--The medical history on a horse must be disclosed by its owner or agent when asked by a prospective buyer.
--Public auction companies must, within 90 days of a sale, publicly disclose horses listed as sold that were later determined to be not sold.
Officials with Ocala Breeders’ Sale Co., which opposed some of the original language proposed by Mack and others, were not immediately available for comment. OBS officials participated in meetings where compromises were hammered out, as were representatives from the veterinarian, owner, breeder, and consignor communities, among others.
Mack said the rules provide “substantial protection for all of the horses purchased in Florida. And they will ensure continued focus on integrity in the horse marketplace, and will become a paramount concern for the people interested in protecting this valuable source of commerce in the state of Florida."
Also under the rules, bills of sale must contain language that says the seller, or seller’s agent, is authorized to convey legal title of the horse to the buyer, and that any representations made in regard to such things as the horse’s medical condition, should be stated in writing.
Flack said the published rules are a good first step in what she is confident will be an ongoing process to properly regulate horse sales. “I don’t think we are anywhere near the end of the line,” she said. “But I’m impressed with what has been accomplished to this point.”