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Farm Bill: Horses Not ‘Pets,’ Research Funded

Horses will not classified as pets under federal law, but instead given a separate designation, according to the Farm Bill signed into law this week.   

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), or the Farm Bill, passed both houses of Congress on Dec. 12 and was signed by the president this week.  Horse industry highlights include a revised statutory definition that excludes equines from a blanket definition of “pets” and provides funding for key livestock and international market development programs through Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, according to a legislative update issued by the American Horse Council (AHC).

In the wake of extensive horse-industry outreach, lawmakers struck language in the Senate version that defined horses as “pets” within the context of a “Pet and Women Safety” (PAWS) measure. Industry officials had requested lawmakers delete “horses” from the proposed statutory definition of “pets,” but retain “horses” as a stand-alone category. In response to industry messages communicated to congressional leaders during the past six months, the final conference report states that the bill “clarifies the definition of pet to include certain companion animals, while also providing protections for other animals such as horses, service animals, and emotional support animals.”

The revised definition helps preserve the long-standing classification of horses as “livestock,” while allowing equines to fall within the scope of property damage subject to compensation within the parameters of the PAWS Act.

Click here to read the 2018 Farm Bill.

Officials from the Washington, D.C.-based AHC, which lobbies on behalf of the horse industry, said a preliminary review of the legislation showed lawmakers are moving in the right direction with respect to funding important animal health programs. Unlike earlier versions of the bill, the legislation requires, rather than authorizes, at least $150 million to fund the National Animal Vaccine Bank (NAVVCB), the National Animal Disaster Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP) and National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), among other programs, for FY 2019 to 2023.  Of the $150 million, the bill stipulates that Congress will appropriate $112 million “to be allocated among the NAHLN, the NADPRP and the NAVVCB.” 

With respect to the NAHLN, a major priority for the horse industry, the legislation further authorizes up to $30 million per year over the five-year span of the farm bill, matching industry’s authorization request, AHC officials said.

Additionally, the legislation provides “$255 million in annual mandatory funding” for Foreign Market Development, the Market Access Program, and other programs that support the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

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