ARS3-1721 aka Equine Neglect

3-1721Petition of seizure; notice of seizure; lien for expenses; forced sale; disposition of proceeds; nonliability of state; neglect or cruel treatment of equine; civil penalty; legal representation

Now that’s a mouthful, isn’t it? And the entire statutue runs over 800 words! So I’ll do a little paraphrasing, starting with boiling down the first sentence – which weighs in at 66 words! (It’s a good thing that a southerner’s education is dosed liberally with Faulkner!)

Essentially the first line says that any person who believes an equine is in poor physical condition because of neglect may petition the court to have the Department of Agriculture seize the equine and provide care for 15 days. There’s also a need for the person to verify the Dept of Ag has funds available to pay for the care through this period.

If the judge grants the petition, s/he will set a hearing date. At that hearing each party will present their argument as to why the horse is or is not in poor physical condition due to neglect. Please realize that I just put in an owner or someone making an argument for the seized equine into our scenario and that may not be the case. This situation could very well have been a horse without a known owner. But in this scenario, the judge then will decide where the horse winds up: going back to where it was, or becoming property of the Dept of Ag to be sold at public auction.

I want to specifically bring to light one other option provided by this statute in the situation where the owner is not awarded the equine back. In paragraph D you’ll find the following: if the equine’s condition makes its sale impractical, dispose of the equine in the most humane manner possible.

I see hay prices at feed stores are up to $18/bale and still rising right along with those non-core inflation items called food & fuel. Sadly I foresee during the course of the upcoming winter many horses potentially traveling down this last road. Having been neglected to the point of no return and having no one with the resources to provide long-term care, I fear many will ultimately be humanely euthanized by myself or others in the State Veterinarian’s Office. Not a thought I enjoy. But I believe it’s better than the alternatives of starving to death or dying of hypothermia.

The final point about this statute that I wanted to make is that this is a civil matter, not criminal. There is language specifically addressing civil penalties in addition to the loss of property the (now former) owner suffers. That penalty has a maximum of $750 per violation. Additionally it specifies that the county attorney may keep the equine if s/he considers it to be of evidentiary value in any criminal prosecution relating to the condition of the equine. In other words, the owner may well face criminal charges under ARS3-2910 after the civil proceedings are concluded.

BRRR It’s Cold Out There!

Did you know that cold weather makes horses skinnier?

Now that’s not like you or me when we’re shivering and trying to pull ourselves into tighter knots to stay warm while watching a football game (well, when the football games were played outside anyway.)

Cold weather makes horses (and any other beast out there) skinnier because of the increased energy demand just to keep normal metabolism going. Meeting that energy demand comes with a price: either belly up to the trough more often or convert some of that existing fat into glucose (blood sugar in many locales). So if the groceries aren’t available to meet the demand, then the fat’s going to start mobilizing and melting away.

Now depending on the extremes of the colder weather and the current body condition of the horse, the time it takes for that effect to be noticeable isn’t all that long. AND it gets hidden by another adaptive response – longer hair coats.

BTW – BCS = Body Condition Score
This is a way of judging how much fat an animal, in this case a horse, has stored in various places in and on its body. A system developed at Texas A&M about 20 years ago has gained widespread use in evaluating horse condition. And while I’m on the topic of judging fat stores, an analogous system was developed many, many years ago for grading meat into categories such as choice or prime. Both systems incorporate our knowledge of how energy is transformed into fat and deposited in various tissues throughout the body.

In addition to living with livestock all my life, I spent just about all of the 1990s in the animal feed industry. Myself and another fellow even wound up re-vamping the entire equine product line at one point. My point? There are many different ways to feeding horses, many different aspects of managing the feeding of horses, and everyone of them hinges on an astute horseman.

I came across a helpful little guide that provides some figures for how much more bad weather might drive your feed bill up, err, I mean how much more hay you might need to feed. Take a look here. That site’s helpful even for the astute horseman because it gives you solid figures as to how much more to be feeding. This way the horse doesn’t have to lose significant weight before you notice it. And that’s a big help when you feed before the sun comes up and after the sun’s gone down just so you can get to work to pay for that hay you were feeding.

Ultimately today’s note is really about how the winter weather is going to escalate the needs of horses and the demands on the time of the handful of officers, inspectors and deputies (which is our term for part-timers) we have. Through this coming winter the skinny horses are likely to get skinnier. And equine in poor physical condition is the key point of a particular statute that I’m going to address in detail in the next installment.

Enjoy the ride!