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Minnesota Legislature

When is a horse a horse?

Published (3/6/2009)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Horse farm owner David Dayon testifies before the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee March 2 in support of a bill that would clarify horses and other equines as livestock and that raising them is an agricultural pursuit. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)“A horse is a horse, of course, of course,” may be familiar as a phrase from the theme song for the old Mister Ed television show. But it took on new meaning during a March 2 discussion over a bill that would clarify whether a horse should be classified as livestock or as a companion animal.

For those involved in the state’s horse industry, each of the classifications carries economic ramifications, as well as how a horse is treated when it dies.

Sponsored by Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano), HF797 would clarify that raising equines for riding, driving, competition, racing, recreation, sale or as breeding stock, is an agricultural pursuit and they should be considered as livestock for the purpose of financial transactions. Approved by the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee, it awaits action by the full House.

Emmer maintained the bill was only about clarifying definitions, but some committee members questioned whether the bill could impact how horse farmers are defined for property tax purposes and wanted the bill sent to the House Taxes Committee.

John Hagen, assistant director of the Department of Revenue Property Tax Division, said the clarification would not “affect how we deal with horses for property tax purposes.”

Other members said the definition change could impact the disposal of dead horses and whether they would be covered under federal animal cruelty laws. Some questioned if the bill’s intent was to permit horse slaughtering.

Rep. Dave Olin (DFL-Thief River Falls) said the Animal Humane Society had issues with the bill’s language and successfully amended it deleting the phrase, “Horses may be used for meat, hides, and animal by-products.” Emmer said he did not oppose the amendment.

The bill’s companion, SF755, sponsored by Sen. Amy Koch (R-Buffalo), awaits action by the Senate Taxes Committee.

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