An equine is just another name for a horse, similar to bovines are cows and felines are cats. A horse is a mammal of the Equidae taxonomic family and is characterized by having four hoofs (“single-toed”), a mane, and tail. States vary on what they define as “equines,” so be sure to check your state’s statutes. In Ohio, zebras and alpacas also qualify as “equines” under statute.
Equine law is not a separate area of practice. However, equine law exists as a conglomeration of tax law, contract law, tort law, estate law, and business law. Additionally, attorneys who practice in equine law must bear in mind the very few, specific statutes that relate to equine law in their state.
No, equine attorneys do not represent horses. However, equine attorneys can represent any person that is involved in the equine industry, including horse owners, horse riders, grooms, and stable owners.
An equine law attorney will typically counsel clients who are involved in the horse industry (i.e. they own horses or they own a business that deals with horses) or clients who want to become involved in the horse industry (i.e. someone who is looking to buy a horse or start a horse business). An equine law attorney will be able to help their clients set up the appropriate business entities for their equine business and help address the specific liability and tax implications an equine business may have. An equine law attorney may also be able to help you face allegations or violations of rules set forth by various governing associations for equine sports, such as alleged improper equipment use with the American Quarter Horse Association or a drug violation with the United States Equestrian Federation.
Most equine associations and governing bodies have their own set of rules that apply to that association. For example, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) governs most horse shows in the United States with rules that they have developed in regards to acceptable equipment, acceptable drugs, and breed rules. The USEF also governs associations that fall under its governance including the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) and the United States Dressage Federation (USDF). However, some breed associations have rules that are separate unto themselves. Such as the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) hosts shows that follow the rules set forth by its association and the Pinto Horse Association of America (PtHA) hosts shows that follow the rules set by its association.
States and the Federal government have also created statutes that affect the equine industry. These statutes mostly deal with liability and contract issues that surround the equine industry.
The Equine Activity Statute is a statute that limits the amount of liability connected to an equine related activity. The statute’s wording varies from state to state but usually says:
Warning: Under (State) Law, an Equine Professional is not liable for an injury to or the death of a participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities.
As of 2015, only three states (California, Maryland, and New York) did not have Equine Activity Statutes. You will need to check out your state’s laws or a local equine attorney to see if the statute only covers professionals, if you will need to post a sign, if specific contract wording is required, and what an “equine” is.
You might need to consult an equine attorney if you are looking to purchase or sell a horse, especially if the value of the horse is over $5,000; if you need to develop a comprehensive boarding or breeding contracts; or if you are facing a lawsuit that is related to any equine activities.
Ohio’s Equine Activity Statute is found in the Ohio Revised Code 2305.321. The relevant part of this statute states:
[A]n equine activity sponsor, equine activity participant, equine professional, veterinarian, farrier, or other person is not liable in damages in a tort or other civil action for harm that an equine activity participant allegedly sustains during an equine activity and that results from an inherent risk of an equine activity.
This protection is not absolute. It is important that you read the entire statute or that you consult with a qualified equine attorney. MacLaren Law LLC can be contacted here.
The only “legal rights” you have are what is given to you in your boarding contract. This is why it is so important for stable owners and boarders alike to have a written agreement about the board of a horse. If you don’t have a written agreement, you will likely only be able to seek legal recourse if it is a blatant cause of negligence that resulted in a substantial injury or death.
A Coggins Test is a blood test that tests for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) or Swamp Fever. This is a viral disease that is primarily spread by blood sucking insects, but can also be spread through horses by blood, saliva, milk, and bodily secretions. EIA is most analogous to HIV in humans and is just as fatal as HIV. If you would like more information about EIA, please read on here.
Most states require a recent Coggins Test for interstate travel and any time a horse changes hands (sale, lease, or loan). However, some states require having a recent Coggins Test just for transporting the horse on public roads within the state and for any equine gathering, such as a horse show. Be sure to read up on your state’s relevant statutes and any state statutes to where you may be traveling to or you may face a penalty. For more information about Ohio’s Coggins statutes, please contact us here or read the Ohio Statute.
There are four main items that should be in your boarding contract. The first item is termination of the boarding contract. This clause gives the boarder and the stable owner information on how each party can terminate the contract, how notice should be given, and if the notice is to be in writing. The second item should be the process of how the boarding rate is raised, how much notice must be given before the rate is raised, and what events trigger a raised rate. The third item should clearly detail the standard of care that will be given to the horse. The final item in the boarding contract should be what will happen to the horse if the boarder falls behind on payments. This last item is very important to have in writing or else you may be at risk for losing your horse!
According to Ohio Revised Code 1311.48 and 1311.49, the owner of the boarding stable has a lien on our horse, in order to secure payment for food and care furnished to the horse. This means if you don’t pay, the boarding stable owner may be able to sell your horse to cover your back payments. However, before they can sell your horse, they must give you 10 days’ notice of the time and place of the sale in a newspaper or general circulation in the county where the horse is. Additionally, the boarding stable owner must send you a copy of the public notice by registered mail the day after the notice is published. After the 10 day period, the boarding stable owner may only sell the horse through a public sale. If the sale price exceeds the amount of debt, plus any costs incurred by the boarding stable owner, then you will receive the balance.
The short answer is yes; however, there is a trend in recent decisions that are starting to say horses and other animals are not automatically treated as such. Attractive nuisance law arises out of tort law and the duty land owners have towards trespassers. Typically, land owners only have a duty to warn trespassers of hidden, deadly dangers and to not willfully injure the trespasser. If the trespasser is a child the standard slightly changes, especially if an attractive nuisance is involved. An attractive nuisance is dangerous condition that may lure uninvited children onto the land, such as a swimming pools, farm equipment, or horses. If you are a horse owner and you reasonably suspect that a child could be tempted to come onto your property to see the horse, it is expected of you to take reasonable measures to prevent or to try to eliminate the danger. This could include reinforcing your fence or making the fence higher, posting clear and conspicuous signs, and securely locking gates to any enclosures.
Just like with any pet or animal, it is important to plan what will happen to them after you are gone. A pet trust is created for the continued care and maintenance of a particular animal. The trust must be funded with some amount of money or property, and a trustee must be designated to administer the trust. The amount of funds to care for the animal must be reasonable. The court has the authority to reduce the amount of caretaking funds to an amount it deems is reasonable for the care of the pet. When creating such a trust, it is wise to name a person who would be willing and able, if necessary, to step forward to bring a legal action against the trust’s caretaker-trustee, should the caretaker-trustee fail to honor the trust.
Authored by: Mary E. Zoldak
Serving Columbus and Central Ohio
MacLaren Law LLC provides counsel for the estate and business planning needs of Columbus, Ohio and its surrounding communities, including: Bexley, Dublin, Upper Arlington, Worthington, Westerville, Pickerington, Pataskala, Delaware, Plain City, New Albany, Gahanna, Newark, Zanesfield, Marysville, Powell. MacLaren Law also serves Franklin, Delaware, Knox, Licking, Union, and Muskingum counties.