WRITTEN BY: Mary Westman, Esq.
While research is conflicted on the actual date humans began to domesticate horses, there seems to be no debate that the dance between humans and equines has existed at least several thousand years. Inevitably, where there are humans transacting, there will be conflict, and the equine industry is no exception.
As an attorney practicing equine law, I am frequently asked, “What is equine law?” That is a very hard question to answer, and, probably, a better question would actually be: what is it not?
A working definition for equine law could include all aspects of equine-related businesses and activities, including legal advising, business formations, preparing or reviewing contracts, litigating equine disputes and equine welfare advocacy. More specifically, equine law can fall into the following broad categories:
• Torts – negligence (general and professional), conversion of personal property, trespass
to land, trespass to chattels (personal property), private nuisance, fraud claims;
• Contract drafting and litigation – transactional drafting of various equine-related agreements, purchase and sale disputes, breeding disputes, agent agreement disputes, and disputes with breed associations and/or event sponsors;
• Constitutional issues – 4th Amendment wrongful search and seizure and takings, animal rights;
• Criminal issues – abuse and neglect, forfeiture;
• Patent – DNA sequences and cloning;
• Estate planning – pet trusts;
• Statutory and common law – bailment, liens and foreclosure, consumer protection;
• Administrative law – racing, tax, water and land use, transportation, import/export, workers’ compensation and other state or federally regulated activities; or
• Executive orders – federal, state and municipal actions related to public health and safety.
While the above list may seem comprehensive, it is not all inclusive! The interplay between and among humans and horses is diverse with a resulting complexity that deserves careful thought and attention. State, federal, municipal, international and common law may all be implicated depending on the facts and circumstances of the equine matter at issue.
As for my law practice, the most common equine-related disputes fall within the broad area of contracts. These contractual disputes may be oral or written and range from sale disputes to disputes among owners and trainers. The next most common equine-related dispute would fall within the broad category of negligence, followed by calls regarding allegations of criminal animal abuse and neglect.
Lastly, I have received a few queries regarding administrative law actions. One common contract problem I find is that parties fail to invest in a written agreement. I frequently hear that “I’ve been in this business for years and never had a written agreement before,” or “the trainer won’t do a written agreement.” These perceptions and attitudes can have costly consequences for all parties involved.
Over the last couple of years, I have written several articles on various equine law topics.
While they are not meant to be comprehensive on any given subject nor a substitute for the advice of an attorney, they are a good starting point for a robust review of your equine-related activities.
The bottom-line is go out and enjoy your horses! But do so after first educating yourself!
This article does not constitute legal advice and is intended to be used for educational purposes only.
About the Author
Mary Westman is an Oklahoma attorney with an MBA, Morgan horse breeder and registered
nurse. A native of West Virginia, she now lives with her husband, David, in Norman, Oklahoma.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Mary Westman 2020. All Rights Reserved.