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Involvement May Save More Than It Costs

Being active in the equine community is something we all know we should do, but it takes an event like the introduction of House Bill 03-1260 to illustrate how important it is to be involved.

For those of you who missed the media coverage, House Bill 03-1260 was written to impose “civil liability for animal cruelty and negligent animal health care professional practices affecting companion dogs and cats…” At first, this sounds good. An owner would be able to sue for animal cruelty and malpractice. But on closer examination it was shown that there were a great number of faults in this law. Faults that the sponsors of this bill didn’t realize even existed. Fortunately, animal interest groups were quick to see the mistakes and lobbied hard to stop this bill. Thanks to the efforts of humane societies, animal welfare groups, and veterinary organizations this law never made it out of committee.

So why is this bill so important an example? The system worked and the bill was defeated. Besides the bill dealt with dogs and cats not horses. The answer is that this bill illustrates what can happen when organized groups are there to act on behalf of animals and their owners. If those groups do not have a strong voice, bills like this will pass with unfortunate consequences for owners and animals.

To explain why this example is important lets look at the specifics of this bill. This law was created by well-intentioned politicians, but without any input by the groups who would be most affected by it. As a result, these lawmakers wrote a poorly planned bill with a number of unintended consequences. Such as increasing the cost of veterinary care, increasing animal abandonment, and increasing cases of neglect. The increase in costs would have been the result of veterinarians passing on the added expenses they would face under the new law. These expenses would include having to perform added lab tests to protect against lawsuits and increased malpractice insurance costs. Some veterinarians would have been forced to move to other states rather than risk loosing their life’s savings to a frivolous lawsuit. Higher veterinary costs would result in an increase in cases of neglect and abandonment by people who couldn’t afford the more expensive veterinary care. In addition, the law would have also dictated what vaccination protocols a veterinarian could follow. Would you want your health care decisions made by a politician? The care animal rescue groups could give would have also been affected. They would have also been at risk of being sued for the care they provided. The end result would have been worse care for animals and greater expense for their owners.

The mistakes made in the writing of this bill could have easily been made in legislation concerning horses. Examples of these types of problems have been seen in other states, such as California. It is also highly likely that the precedent set by this law would eventually have been applied to horses, with the same consequences. The way to prevent this type of poorly planned legislation is to join organizations like the Colorado and American Horse Councils, breed associations, trail riding groups, or sport horse associations. It is only by joining together thousands of members can horse organizations get the attention of lawmakers. By speaking with one voice not only do equine organizations have more clout, but they also can also act much more efficiently. The effects of Colorado House Bill 03-1260 would have been felt for years without well-organized animal welfare and interest groups. It would have gone from introduction to passing in less than 2 weeks, not nearly enough time for individual horse owners to find out and stop this law.


Dr. John Marion

Castlewood Canyon Equine - Quality Horse veterinarian Services for Franktown CO, Elizabeth, Parker and the surrounding areas.

1115 Castlewood Canyon Road
Franktown, CO 80116
(303) 660-1492

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