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Turning Horse Owners Into Illegal Traffickers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Tuesday, 09 September 2008
AFF Sentinel Vol.5#38

Stealth Attempt to Foist Criminality on Horse Owners Set for Wednesday Morning

The Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has scheduled a vote at 10:00 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Sept. 10 on H.R. 6598, a bill that in some cases would criminalize selling horses. The only hearing held on the bill was before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security in July.

Last month, we noted the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) was supporting this bill to outlaw the knowing possession, sale, delivery or transport of horses for slaughter for human consumption across state lines or international borders, punishable with fines and prison terms from one-three years (AFF Sentinel Vol.5#36-"A Challenger Hits Its Stride- Part II" 8/29/08). Now suddenly the bill is scheduled for a vote as one of the first things Congress works on this session.

So horses, which, so far, are legal to own, would be a class of property that could land one in jail if one sells them without proper research. Let's examine the implications of the term "knowingly" in this legislation. When a prosecutor charges one with knowing that someone who bought his surplus horse was going to somehow cause that horse to be eventually eaten by humans, how is one to prove he didn't know?

Proving a negative to a zealous government officer is never easy. Aside from the hassle of charges and expense of hiring attorneys, will the courts accept, "I didn't know," as a defense? What will be the burden of proof for a cowboy before a jury of sob sisters and emotional citizens evaluating his possible criminal complicity?

Being or playing dumb seldom works for hardworking citizens, just habitual criminals. In order to avoid a charge of "knowingly" selling a horse, a horse owner would have to start researching anyone who attempts to buy horses from him, to make sure he is not a slaughter buyer or an agent masquerading as a regular horse buyer. Will not knowing become negligence and guilt?

What knowledge does a horse seller have at an auction? Will horse auctions now have to conduct background investigations of buyers before issuing bidder numbers?

Will selling horses become too dangerous or costly? Will horses the kids have outgrown or proven too high strung for ranch work simply be taken out to the back pasture and shot, denied a useful life somewhere where its abilities and temperament fit better because of fear? Will people not want to risk selling to someone who turns out to be an "undercover investigator" for HSUS or an overzealous prosecutor?

Why was this bill's hearing held before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security? Could it be that appropriate committees who should know about animals and agriculture have no interest in trying to put animal owners and caretakers in jail, except under existing cruelty statutes? Is this bill before a Crime subcommittee because activists and some lawmakers consider it a crime if an animal does not die of old age?

Short of hiring a veterinarian and arranging for disposal at a cost of several hundred dollars or being struck by lightning, are other means of death for horses to be considered a crime perpetrated by animal owners? That someone may not have the money or want to spend the money or actually wish to receive money for the unwanted horse to perhaps pay for feed for other horses -- is to be criminalized. Perhaps next will be a requirement that anyone who buys a horse be also required to pay a deposit to cover the euthanasia and disposal fee of that horse.

Can an American citizen legally own a horse or not? Extremists hold that one cannot own animals. In Boulder, Co. one cannot legally own an animal but only be its guardian. If one can legally own a horse, it would seem the Constitution would protect the owner who wanted to sell his property.

Liz Ross of the Animal Welfare Institute said this bill was germane to the Subcommittee on Crime as legal action to "criminalize equine cruelty." We disagree. While equine cruelty might be their target, putting horse owners into a class of traffickers like drug pushers is zealotry. Is there another instance in which owning property is legal but selling it might not be? Are horses to be sometimes lumped in with illegal property -- like drugs, nuclear weapons, stolen goods or humans - that are illegal to sell?

What rights - or what animals - could be targeted next?

Should you wish to contact them: House Judiciary Committee - 202/225-3951; House switchboard to contact your representative: 202/224-3121. Click for the list of Judiciary Committee members:

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Last Updated ( Friday, 12 September 2008 )
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