A Clear and Present Danger for Horse Owners

A Clear and Present Danger for Horse Owners

California bill only the first step

By: Lee Wallot  Date: 01/10/2012 Category: | Animal Legislation |



Right now, animal rights activists are busy in California gathering signatures for a 1998 state initiative that is the most dangerous piece of legislation faced by horse owners to date. What makes it so dangerous? Many people, including horse owners, may support and vote for the legislation simply because they do not understand the real agenda behind the seemingly compassionate and caring words of the initiative itself.

As explained by an item in the Fall 1997 newsletter of Last Chance For Animals, an animal rights organization, the initiative would ". . . Reclassify the horse as a companion animal, thereby ending the slaughter of equines for human consumption abroad."

That short notice is devastating proof that the gathering campaign against the breeding and ownership of horses that I have been reading about in the animal rights publications for the past two years is finally being put into action. Even though I knew it was coming, the announcement still made my stomach twist in disbelief. I knew I was looking at the beginning of exactly the same campaign, using exactly the same issues and tactics, that has been used so successfully against the ownership and breeding of dogs and cats over the past eight years.

During that time frame, dog and cat breeders and owners have seen more than 300 cities, counties, and states process ever-increasing legislation that is designed by the animal rights movement to gradually eliminate the breeding of pets. The design embodies making it so difficult (through regulations) and so expensive (through fees and licenses) that eventually breeders will give up. It is done step by little step by little step, each new law drawing the noose ever so slightly tighter around the neck of the pet-owning populace.


Steps taken against the pet world

Since 1990, we have seen legislation that proposed bans (with penalties) on breeding even one litter and legislation ordering mandatory spaying and neutering as well as a huge differential in licensing fees. (In King County, Washington, the originally-proposed Ordinance 123 set $1 licenses for neutered pets and $150 licenses for unneutered ones. Currently Los Angeles is working on an ordinance that would charge a $500 license fee for an unneutered dog unless the owner fits a narrowly-defined exception status.)

Some laws also order door-to-door canvassing by animal control to ensure license compliance and contain requirements for licensing puppies as young as six weeks of age as well as restrictions on advertising and a mandate for purchase of an expensive breeding permit if an owner breeds even one litter, either accidentally or on purpose. Some also demand mandatory vaccination programs as set up by animal control and animal control mandated specifications for the housing and care of animals.

We have seen the progression of legislation that may have seemed innocuous to the uninformed in the first round, i.e. California's "pet lemon law," the Polanco-Lockyer-Farr Pet Breeders Warranty Act, that applied only to breeders producing more than 50 puppies a year, to the new proposed definition of a breeder as one who has only one pregnant female.

We have documented the escalation of attacks by animal rights activists against the dog-owning world, from breed-specific legislation that seeks to outlaw entire breeds to the labeling of breeders as "callous and inhumane who care only about the money they can make from their animals" to the campaign of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights to stop ear cropping and tail docking to the false animal rights claims that all purebreds are a raging epidemic of genetic problems.

The result of all this propaganda and increasing government control was predictable, but it is only now that we are beginning to see a shortage of puppies in some areas. Yet even with the emergence of a growing shortage, the activists still demand even more restrictions based on the clarion (and false) call of "overpopulation."

The campaign against pet breeders and owners has been so successful it has taken on a life of its own and, with the groundwork in place, the activist leaders are now taking aim at their next target: the breeding and ownership of horses.

Preliminary forays against the horse industry have been going on for years. The activists have made some attempts to ban carriage horses in cities; to ban what they call "horse tripping" at charreadas; to protest at racetracks, rodeos, and circuses; to attack three-day eventing at the Olympics; to harass children at 4-H events and fairs; and to protest against the production of Premarin. However, for the most part, they have not been very successful because the big guns in the movement had not yet begun their coordinated campaign of manipulation and lies to "educate" the public about the "cruelties" horses face at the hands of humans. The California initiative, however, and others like it that will surely follow if it passes, will change all that.


The campaign

It will be a high profile and emotion-generating campaign, backed by hidden funds from the big animal rights groups and fueled by those people in the entertainment world who so blithely lend credence to the movement with their support, both financial and personal. Unfortunately, it will also be fueled by some horsemen themselves who do not understand the real agenda behind the initiative. The real issue if not the slaughter of horses as the backers of the initiative would have you believe. The real issue is to change, by law, the classification of horses from livestock to companion animals. Later we will look at why this is being done, but first it is important to look at the way the campaign will be run.


The propaganda parade

The activists are being very careful to stay away from having the initiative defined as an animal rights issue. They acknowledge that the growing enlightenment of the general public about the animal rights agenda would make it difficult to pass the initiative if they were labeled as animal rights fanatics by the opposition. So, even though heavy financial and other support will come from animal rights groups, they will seek to keep the focus on the issue of compassion for horses and will steadfastly deny that the ultimate goal is to eventually remove horses from all contact with human beings because of the "suffering, enslavement, and exploitation" that people cause them.

They will push for horse groups to support the initiative, using the suggestion that such organizations would be labeled "cruel and uncaring" if they did not support it. They will seek the help of letters from children, much as Wild Horse Annie did so successfully many years ago to get wild horse protection through Congress. Young teenagers, especially girls, are prime foot soldiers for the movement because of their natural love of horses and their lack of understanding of complex issues.

Through their propaganda, advertisements, billboards, and media appearances, they will appeal to the general public, specifically those who own only one or two horses and already think of them as oversized pets. These owners are most often already emotionally involved with their horses and are easy prey for anyone advocating laws to better protect horses.

Just as they did with the pet industry, the activists will use disgustingly graphic pictures and stories to generate support for their cause, knowing full well that such emotion-generating images are powerful tools. In their campaign against dog breeders, they used photos of barrels of dead dogs and cats in their advertisements. The Progressive Animal Welfare Society in Washington used a photo in the Sunday magazine section of the Seattle Times, a half-page photo showing a hand holding up an adorable little kitten with another hand plunging a hypodermic needle deep into the kitten's belly as it was euthanized. In King County, they actually killed appealing dogs on television and in San Mateo, California, they killed dogs in public.

Having seen some of the photos of horses they have been using in their articles and publications, I have to warn the horse industry: be prepared to be shocked.

It is ironic how blatantly a movement that says it abhors the "exploitation" of animals by animal-using and -owning people can so hypocritically exploit those same pathetic creatures as a means to further their own agenda. Had those purposely-killed animals remained alive, they would have generated hundreds of requests to adopt. Instead, the animal rights people say their deaths are a means to "educate" the public.


Horses - livestock or pets?

To reiterate: the purpose of the California initiative is not to stop the slaughter of horses. The issue of slaughter is only the emotional flash point that will be used to drum up support from uninformed, animal-loving people. Just as they used the issue of "overpopulation " as a cause of the "crisis" of pets killed at shelters, so they will use the issue of "overpopulation" as a a cause of the "crisis" of horses sent to slaughter. And just as the "overpopulation crisis" was a lie in the pet world (shelter euthanasia had plummeted almost 85 percent in the 10-year period from 1980-1990 without legislation), so will the "overpopulation" in horses be carefully manufactured by the animal rights movement.

Yet the question remains: Why would the activists want to change the classification of horses from livestock to companion animals? What would they gain?

Presently, in most states, horses are classified as livestock and are under the regulation of the Department of Agriculture. Step six of the 12-Step Animal Rights Agenda states: "Transfer enforcement of animal welfare legislation away from the Department of Agriculture." Why do they want to do this? Because the Department of Agriculture is a powerful bloc against the animal rights movement and horses have enjoyed the protection of laws formulated to protect the livestock industry against outside legislation.

However, once removed from the classification of livestock and redefined as "companion animals" or pets, horses would lose that protection and become subject to laws enforced by local and state animal control agencies. This would automatically make them subject to the same type of regulations and laws that are already in place for dogs and cats (the original "companion animals").

"Ridiculous!" you say? Look at any animal control ordinance and read the definition of "animals." An animal is not defined specifically as a dog or cat. The definition usually says an animal is any living creature except man, insects, and worms. The term "companion animal" is usually used by the animal rights movement to mean dogs, cats, or other pets. With a change in classification, horses would also be so designated.

Why is this so dangerous? Because whereas the Department of Agriculture has managed to keep tight control of livestock laws, just the opposite has happened within animal control departments. For decades, animal control has worked closely with and has been influenced by humane and welfare societies . . . the same organizations that over the past 15 years have shifted away from the concept of animal welfare towards that of animal rights. Many such animal rights groups now call themselves animal protection organizations because their leaders no longer believe in animal welfare. Their money, focus, and campaigns are now devoted to the cause of animal rights. In fact, some in the movement actually call animal welfare "the enemy."

Those animal control agencies are now becoming even more controlled by the animal rights groups. All across the country, government is setting up animal welfare advisory committees at local and state levels. Doris Day Animal League is even trying to set one up at the federal level. Such committees are composed of lay (not elected) people who suggest and formulate legislation concerning animals. Those lay people always represent a certain number of animal rights (protection/welfare/humane) organizations; the longer the committees are in existence, the more expansive the number of animal rights representatives become on those committees.

The danger of this should be so obvious that it cannot be ignored.

Please go back and re-read the suffocating laws dog and cat breeders have had piled on them in the space of eight short years. It doesn't happen overnight, but where does the horse industry want to find itself eight or 10 years from now? If legislation such as the California initiative is not defeated, the slide down the slippery slope is inevitable.



Recently several people who had read the California initiative told me, "There is nothing wrong with the initiative because nowhere is there any reference to changing the classification of horses.

Of course there isn't. The initiative proponents are smart enough to know such a written position would immediately generate aggressive opposition. The wording is carefully formulated to avoid opposition. However, as in all animal rights proposed legislation, we must look beyond what such legislation says to what it actually does.

Livestock are food animals that can legally be killed for food. This does not mean they have to be slaughtered, just that legally, they can be. On the other hand, pets are nonfood animals and it is unequivocally against the law to kill them for food. In many instances of law, horses are currently in a nether-nether land, sometimes not even specifically mentioned as livestock but historically falling under the regulations that apply to livestock.

The initiative would, by law, designate horses as nonfood animals and, written or not, their reclassification as pets (companion animals) would be accomplished because they would share the same prohibition as pets.

The initiative is also disingenuous because it is being sold as a law that would end the slaughter of horses. It will not do this. Horse slaughter will continue because the initiative outlaws only slaughter for human consumption. The reality is that horses will still be killed for other reasons, mainly for consumption by other animals as in dog and cat food and for the production of other byproducts.

We urge horsemen to look beyond what the initiative says and try to understand what it really does.

About The Author

Lee Wallot's photo
Lee Wallot - Executive Director

Member/Volunteer/Partner/Article Writer of the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Lee Wallot |
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