EQUUS - - Special Report -

Terms like “ne­glect,” “abuse,” “aban­don­ment” and “stray” have pre­cise le­gal def­i­ni­tions that can vary by state. So while the specifics in your state may dif­fer, the fol­low­ing def­i­ni­tions pro­vide a gen­eral guide­line for th­ese terms as they are usu­ally de­fined by law:

• Ne­glect gen­er­ally means that an an­i­mal does not re­ceive ad­e­quate care. Ne­glected horses, for ex­am­ple, of­ten do not have ac­cess to any food or to enough food to main­tain suit­able body con­di­tion. But ne­glect can also cover re­quire­ments to pro­vide potable (drink­able) wa­ter, proper vet­eri­nary and/or far­rier care, and suf­fi­cient space to move around.

Ne­glect is prob­a­bly the eas­i­est to prove, de­pend­ing on the lo­cal or state laws. In Texas, for in­stance, the law re­quires that horses be pro­vided with nec­es­sary food. When a horse is ema­ci­ated and no food is avail­able on the prop­erty, it is not hard to prove that the horse is ne­glected. Things may get more dif­fi­cult if there’s food on the prop­erty yet the horse isn’t get­ting enough to keep up his weight—but that’s of­ten proven by a vet­eri­nary or equine ex­pert’s ex­am­i­na­tion of the horse’s con­di­tion, backed up by their tes­ti­mony of the horse’s body con­di­tion score, blood­work that shows nu­tri­tional de­fi­cien­cies, and pho­tos that doc­u­ment how the horse gains weight once he re­ceives proper food.

• Abuse is hard to de­fine and harder to prove. In Texas, abuse in­cludes over­work and tor­ture, but some states don’t de­fine or ad­dress abuse at all. Proof of abuse is of­ten elu­sive. Own­ers and train­ers may claim that a horse’s wounds were caused by in­juries or ac­ci­dents in the pas­ture, and it can be hard to prove oth­er­wise un­less the of­fi­cer wit­nesses the abuse oc­cur­ring and is able to doc­u­ment it.

Also, the terms “over­work” and “tor­ture” are sub­jec­tive: What one per­son calls tor­ture might be con­sid­ered an ac­cepted train­ing method for another, and what one con­sid­ers over­work may be a nor­mal day for some­one else. Is it truly abu­sive or nor­mal horse­keep­ing when a trainer ties a horse up for sev­eral hours? Rides with spurs? Leaves a horse in a stall for days on end? Rides for five or more hours in one day?

• Aban­don­ment means some­one has left horses and made no pro­vi­sions for their care. This could hap­pen when some­one moves away and leaves horses be­hind, or when some­one rents prop­erty, drops off horses and fails

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