Crazy Craigslist: Society for Catching Horse Thieves

A Recent Craigslist Posting that I came across:

Nor Cal Society for Catching Horse Thieves

Date: 2011-12-25, 11:16AM PST
Reply to:                                                [Errors when replying to ads?]

                                                                         If a smile and a handshake is just as strong as any contract.                          

  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests


 On occasion I read Craigslist for horse-related items, such as horses or tack for sale, ads from boarding facilities, and the like.  This evening I found the ad posted above and it left me shaking my head, so I thought I would share it with my fellow equestrians.

As a preface, I think the person sounds a bit odd,  however, I have just a few comments to say in response:

1. In the spirit of this equine legal blog,  I would warn this Craigslister that no matter how grave a crime against horses, vigilantism is illegal (i.e., taking the law into your own hands to wreak your own punishment without legal authority).

2.  A smile and a handshake is not "just as strong as any contract."  Any equestrian that has had a horse deal fall apart or go wrong can attest to that; a contract helps prevent liability, anticipates apportionment of losses, and ultimately, a written contract helps solidify that the parties understand the agreement and understand that they are entering into a binding matter.

3. If you ever buy or sell an item on Craigslist, please use extreme caution when meeting with the potential seller/buyer; don't go alone, meet at a public place, and during the day.  There are not only some oddballs, but also crazy and dangerous Craigslist users out there.

Update: I did a little further research, and the "Society for Apprehending Horse Thieves" was founded in the 19th century to 'combat a rash of horse thievery' in Dedham, Massachusetts.  The Society has continued to meet for 192 years, yet a horse hasn't been reported stolen in Dedham since 1909. It seems to be a tax exempt charitable organization.  
An amusing and insightful Los Angeles Times article on their local Society can be found here.  Apparently the Society members are not vigilantes, but are given authority by local enforcement to search for stolen horses (though they haven't been asked to search since 1917). 
 The Society in the 21st century appears to exist as a men's social group.

 I wasn't aware of this Society before- do any of you readers have insight?

*The black marks indicate my redaction of what I considered irrelevant portions of the Craigslist posting for the purpose of this blog

Bourbon, Coke, and Morphine: a Trainer's Troubles

You may have seen this recent story about a race horse that came in third in a race, was subsequently drug tested, and the results came back positive for morphine.

The trainer was adamant that he was innocent and hadn't drugged the horse, but the test results were considered more reliable than his word, and the trainer was charged with illegally drugging the horse and faced various serious penalties.

On my facebook page, I shared a list of equine applications ("apps") for smart phones, one of which is the FEI Clean Sport substance database.
The database is free and exceedingly interesting- you just type in the drug or substance you are curious about whether you (or your barn mate) should give to a horse.

According to the FEI, morphine is a "Prohibited Substance (Banned)."
There are a list of common trade names (i.e., Roxanol, Avinza, Kadian, among others- be sure to check the list of ingredients and do not rely merely on the product name.)

Further information is provided:
"Morphine is a prototype of a large class of natural and synthetic opioids.  It is prescribed for the relief of severe pain... Use in horses [is] prohibited by equine control bodies."

In case you didn't read the article, there is a more or less happy result:

'An examination of Waite's Thirlmere property, about two hours from Canberra, revealed an abundance of poppy flowers that were tested and shown to produce morphine along with codeine and papaverine.

"I've got literally thousands of them. They're growing in between the alley ways where I haven't mown for a while, in between the paddocks. This horse must have been getting her head over the fence when the other horse was out of the yard next to it because the electric tape was down.

"I grew up in the city and I wouldn't have known a poppy flower from a bloody bourbon and Coke."'

The trainer had to plead guilty to the horse's positive blood sample for morphine, but because he had no knowledge or control of the morphine drugging, he was absolved from any penalties.

As an aside, the FEI rules are handled through administrative hearings.  Lawyers are not necessary for representation, but by engaging lawyers who have an intimate knowledge of the equine industry and rules can help make an administrative hearing more expedient, less stressful, and hopefully result in a lighter sentence by helping bring to light important facts and evidence.

And one last note, always inspect your horse's pastures, your entire property, and your neighbors' properties for plants that are dangerous, toxic, and lethal to horses.
 Our neighbors like to plant oleander bushes, which are inexpensive and grow quickly, but are dangerous when ingested by horses, so we keep horses far from the fence line and inspect paddocks carefully when mucking them for any evidence of oleander foliage blown in by the wind.

Back to the Bar: Kentucky!

I found this under our tree yesterday, and couldn't help but open it before Christmas....

Yes indeed, my next set of study aides for the Kentucky bar in February!
(The other half of the stack of books is still in the box)

Unfortunately, just like for the California bar this past summer, my blog postings will become a bit sparse due to the studying priority.  But I'll take study breaks and keep reading your blogs, and will try to post here and there when I can.

While I love Kentucky, we currently do not have plans to move to the bluegrass state; I am taking the bar in order to better serve the legal needs of our equine community.

The exam will be in Lexington at the end of February; I've only been to Kentucky in the spring and summer, so any survival tips for Kentucky winter would be appreciated!

Source Unknown

Merry Christmas to you and your horses!

Immigration Law: the Equine Specialist

We've previously discussed the aspects of immigration for the International Equine Professional, which requires an immigration visa (P-1) wherein the athlete is renown in several countries, or is part of an internationally recognized team.

This immigration post is for the equine specialist, who is not necessarily hired for his/ her riding and training abilities.
For example: My family is friends with two Argentine veterinarians, who live and work in Argentina;
if someone wished to hire one of these veterinarians to work on their ranch or for a club or team in the U.S., most likely the appropriate visa for the vet is the H-1B.

The H-1B visa is for "specialty occupations" that require highly specialized knowledge, and that the experience or knowledge was achieved by higher education (or equivalent) to a U.S. bachelor degree.
Equine specialities include veterinarians, equine science professionals, certain barn management positions, or other professionals with a degree required for the equine work opportunity in the U.S. 

This visa can be issued for a 3-year duration, and then extended for an additional 3 years for a total of 6 years in the U.S.  There is also potential for the H-1B visa holder to receive a green card.

If you wish to employ an international equine specialist you must submit a Labor Condition Application detailing the employment position, and secondly you must petition Citizen and Immigration Services.
If approved for the H-1B, the dependents (spouse and children) of the equine specialist can apply for a H-4 visa so they can stay together as a family.


All of these great images are from the website of Felix Doolittle, based in West Newtown, PA.
(Original equine art on various stationery and accessories.)

Can you be sued for your salty, crabby, emotional Mare?

I shared a story with a fellow blogger recently about our mare Bella, who meets the stereotypical perspective of (the not so positive) sides of a mare: touchy, easily annoyed, opinionated, and petulant.
We will literally love Bella to death; she is a beautiful girl, and a gorgeous mover.  We are so fortunate to have had her in our lives for the past 10 years, and hope we have another 10 with her.
However, those who know Bella agree that for all her positive traits, she can be a bit of a grouch to other horses.

Can having a horse, known to have a grouchy side, give rise to a legal liability?
In the world of dog bite laws, there is more or less a "one bite rule," where if a dog has never before bitten anyone, and the owners had no reason to know that a dog would bite a person, then the owners would (usually) not be held liable.

Source: addresses correcting horses that bite

Milt Toby wrote an interesting blog post on whether the "one bite rule" applies to horses, and he concluded that in some states at least, it does.
In a Connecticut case the judge held:
"The owner of a horse, classified as a domesticated animal, is only liable to an injured plaintiff if the owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the horse’s propensity to attack other animals or people." 

Personal injury law varies according to whether the property owner owed a duty to the injured party.
For example, a landowner doesn't owe as many duties to a trespasser as he would to someone invited onto the landowner's property.

It's hard to know what a judge or jury would consider "propensity to attack," or "violent propensity of the horse."
Many horses get worried when other horses get too close to their food.  If a child feeding treats or grain to horses in a paddock or over a fence and his hand is bitten by a horse known to be jealous or greedy around food, would the horse owner be liable?

Frankly, you never want to even be in the position where you have to defend yourself- such as having to argue a victim assumed the risk of injury of harm, or that the victim provoked the horse.

While the laws are not completely clear, and vary according to state, if the horse that we know to be grouchy or needy at times has never bitten (or intentionally kicked) any human or any horse or animal (or attempted to), then it is likely the horse does not have a 'propensity for harm.'

Source, The Equinest, "Horses in Motion" post

Takeaway: always be safe and smart, never allow non-expert horse people handle higher-maintenance performance horses (or ornery ones); feed food aggressive horses far from other horses; and have zero tolerance for aggression (i.e., if a horse is a kicker, tie a red ribbon in his tail when with others, and at home teach him kicking is unacceptable; find a great article here on kicking and correction).

I know that mares are given a hard time for stereotypical mare behavior, but I cannot end this post without firmly stating that many mares have highly desirable levels of sensitivity, patience, work ethic, and wisdom.
(And of course, the above discussion applies to geldings as well!)

Immigration Law: the International Equine Professional

Many disciplines and aspects of the equine world have need for foreign riders and equine participants.
This may include foreign trainers, riders, competitors, jockeys, grooms, and handlers.
Because immigration law can be complex, the next few blog posts will break down the main categories of equine immigration to the U.S.

Argentine Adolfo Cambiaso, with a handicap of 10 goals, considered by most as the best polo player in the world.

First: the International Equine Professional

My family often plays polo with Argentine polo players; Argentina is known throughout the world as producing some of the top polo players (such as Cambiaso, Figueras, etc.).   Argentine polo professionals often travel to the U.S. for the polo season or for competitions.

Notable professional equine athletes include Olympic riders, Pan American Game team members, and World Equestrian Game participants.  For such riders, the P-1A Visa  is likely the most appropriate and is for riders who intend a temporary stay in the U.S.
The P-1 Visa is reserved for riders who are exceptional in their field, a standard measured by whether the athletic achievement is recognized or renown in more than one country.

A U.S. sponsor, company, or employer must file a petition for the particular equine rider with the Citizenship and Immigration Services department.  The petition must contain details of the rider's international recognition, which might include: the rider's international ranking, a written statement from sports media or a recognized expert in the sport, or proof of significant participation on a U.S. or International team.

The P-1 Visa would permit the equine athlete to enter the U.S. for a specific competition, event, or performance, and might extend to an entire season of the horse sport (such as the summer polo season).  The equine athlete could also enter the U.S. for "promotional appearances."

Possibly a "promotional appearance," Argentine Nacho Figueras, handicap of 6 Goals

Family members (dependents) of the accomplished equine athlete would apply for a P-4 Visa in order to accompany the athlete, and there are other P Visa classifications for the equine athlete's support team, such as a coach or trainer.

-I know this post was "polo" heavy, but don't worry, I'll move to other disciplines in further immigration posts!-

Jumping with Joy!

I took the California Bar Exam at the end of July, and after an interminable 3.5 months of waiting, I received my results: I passed!
When I read my name on the pass list I was flooded with relief from stress and happiness of success;  I won't ever forget that monumental day.

Thank you for reading and learning along with me on this blog over my past year of law school, the bar, and now my results.  You have followed me on one of the most significant rides of my life.

I now plan on taking the Kentucky bar in 2012 so that I can even further meet the legal needs of our equine community. 
I am looking forward to continuing my blog and following the equine adventures of my fellow bloggers.

Happy Riding!

I have updated this blog's disclaimer in the left-hand column, and have included it below:
"I am an attorney licensed in the state of California.  As a reminder, no information on this blog should be taken as legal advice.  All information on this blog is only for the purpose of sharing our equine interests within a legal context.  This blog cannot create an attorney-client relationship between you and the blog author.  This blog is not a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state."

The photo was taken a couple weeks ago with my latest hunter project, Sophie, a baby we bred to my father's first polo horse and a Criollo Argentine polo stallion.

Liability: Oh what fear you strike in the horseman's heart!

Liability: one of the greatest fears of barn or horse owners that they will be sued for an injury  caused  by their horse, or  that occurs on their property, and will then incur hundreds or thousands of dollars of costs in court or in a settlement (clearly, my own definition)

Bruce Lauritzen, "Horsefly." Oil on Canvas, 24" x 24"
For the rest of my photos of the "Equitation" Art Exhibit, click here for the Facebook album.

I started this blog as a place to collect information for my equine legal research project.  In my efforts to always expand my legal knowledge, I continue to mull over oddities and conflicts in the law (and trust me, there are many!).

I recently stumbled upon an interesting intersection of laws, so I wanted to write them out here to try to explain to my readers, and to myself, how they all connect.

Please note this post is NOT meant to provide a comprehensive list of every defense or cause of action available for horse participant injuries; these are a select few that I find both interesting and correlating. 

46 US states have Equine Activity Liability Acts (EALA), which limit the civil liability of a horse owner/ land owner/ show sponsor for damages incurred by an injured party, if the injuries arises from an "inherent risk" of the equine activity. (Click here for a map of state EALAs)

Defendant's defense when no state EALA:
For the 4 states that do not have an EALA, including California, liability can be limited by:

1. Having a participant sign a valid Waiver of Liability, and thereby acknowledge the risks involved in horse participation.

2. The theory of Assumption of Risk: if a Waiver of Liability was not signed, or if it is invalid, then a horse owner/ sponsor/ etc. can claim that by participating in riding or other such equine activity, the injured person knowingly Assumed the Risk of the dangers of riding.

3. Recreational Land Use Statutes: these are state-specific, but in California Civil Code Section 846, merely permitting riders onto your land, without specifically inviting them or charging them a fee to ride on your land, does not give rise to a duty to warn of dangers on the property

Plaintiff's Causes of Action
If the state does have an EALA, the Plaintiff would first argue that it should not apply to his or her particular situation (because of willful, wanton behavior, not an inherent risk to the horse activity, etc.).  And if the Recreational Land Use Statute is inapplicable for the situation, and the injured party did not sign a Waiver or Release (or it is invalid under the circumstances), the party may bring suit under:

1. Animal Control Act: this would be used most likely in a non-riding situation, but perhaps if a bystander is bitten or kicked by a horse at a facility.  For example, in Illinois the law is that:

"If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself in any place where he may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in damages to such person for the full amount of the injury sustained."

2. Domestic Animals Running at Large Act: again citing to Illinois as an example, if a horse is not kept restrained in a reasonable or necessary manner and becomes loose and injures someone, then the owner or custodian of the horse is liable for those damages to a person or property.

I always look closely at state EALA statutes, particularly because California is one of the rare states that has chosen thus far not to enact one.  There are pros and cons to EALAs, which I will discuss in a blog post at a later date.
It is intriguing to me that there are so many different avenues to bring suit or a defense when a person has been injured by a horse.
Does your state have an Equine Activity Liability Act?
If so, do you pay it any attention?

The Government and The Horse: Regulating Wild Mustangs

There are a number of bills and laws regarding the regulation of wild mustangs.
I'm sure you are aware that the government controls the life and existence of these horses, though the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seeks recommendations from private, non-government persons, in managing the horses.
I've written on this topic before, and more fully explained the 1971 Act in that post.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971

Sec. 3.
All wild free-roaming horses and burros are hereby declared to be under the jurisdiction of the Secretary for the purpose of management and protection in accordance with the provisions of this Act. The Secretary is authorized and directed to protect and manage wild free-roaming horses and burros as components of the public lands....
The Secretary shall maintain a current inventory of wild free-roaming horses and burros on given areas of the public lands. The purpose of such inventory shall be to: make determinations as to whether and where an overpopulation exists and whether action should be taken to remove excess animals; determine appropriate management levels of wild free-roaming horses and burros on these areas of the public lands; and determine whether appropriate management levels should be achieved by the removal or destruction of excess animals, or other options (such as sterilization, or natural controls on population levels).
I shared this documentary, among others, on my Facebook page.  The Napa Valley Film Festival is featuring three equine films (my favorite is the Wild Mustang Challenge, go check out the trailer that I posted!)
The documentary below is a one-sided point of view on the wild mustang issue.
Typically I prefer a documentary that shows both sides of the story, but nonetheless, I wanted to share it here because it is important we are aware of the laws and tensions affecting horses.
I personally do not think the best solution is to be hands-off with the mustang population, I think that would be inhumane.  
But watching the horses be shipped into Mexico was difficult footage to see, because once they cross our borders, we can't control the humane treatment of providing food and water.
A tense problem, indeed.

Everyone loves a little one: Babies and Breeding

I had two very special baby moments last week:

1. Our little filly Sophie is growing up, and I jumped her over her very first cavaletti! Milestone for the baby foal book! (note: she is now 4.5, so no, I am not riding or jumping yearlings!)

2. My sister had her little girl on Friday, and I am so happy to welcome a healthy and beautiful little niece!

All these babies on my mind leads me to, what else?! 
Legal implications of breeding agreements and foal exchanges!

Percheron Filly; Source

Have you ever used a breeding contract or been involved with a breeding arrangement, or think you might in the future?  We've bred 3 fillies successfully, but one mare (the one with the best pedigree, of course) just would not take despite multiple efforts. 
Fortunately we had an agreement in place regarding breeding fees, so we avoided any miscommunication.  We left our mare at a facility where she would be inseminated, so we had to consider a boarding agreement, vet agreement, and live foal agreements.

Some things to consider for breeding contracts:

1. If a live foal is guaranteed, then how is "live foal" defined?  Must it stand and nurse? Must it survive the first 24 or 48 hours?

2. If the mare does not take, would a repeat breeding be gratis? If so, how many times, over how long a period? Or would a refund be offered in lieu of further attempts?

3. What insurance would be required? If someone is breeding to your mare, would you require major medical/ mortality insurance?  What about the stallion's insurance (especially if live cover)? Or insurance for the foal? And consider insurance for your farm or ranch if horses are being brought to your facility for breeding or care.

(I had to exercise great restraint in not posting more foal photos!)

I know that breeding has come under increased scrutiny and criticism lately because there has been a growing awareness of the "unwanted horse" situation: slaughterhouses in the U.S. are closed, discretionary income to purchase horses is minimal, and horse owners are losing their jobs and farms and cannot feed their horses.  
However, breeding horses is necessary for the growth of various breeds and disciplines- and in my opinion- breeding is not the sole variable to blame for unwanted horses, and can be done responsibly.
So while I do not encourage casual, irresponsible "backyard breeding," I do encourage anticipating potential areas of conflict when choosing to breed your mare, offer brood-mare services (we used one for our orphan filly), or offer stallion services, and to come to an agreement in writing between the parties.

Foals are special: make sure every aspect of its conception, delivery, and lifetime is considered before taking that step, including contracts, insurance, and finally- a safe and happy home!

Welfare in the News: Only YOU can (help) Prevent Equine Abuse

In my work, I focus on the transactional aspect of equine law, such as boarding, sale, and shipping contracts/ agreements, labor and immigration law of equine competitors or grooms, land zoning and use for agriculture, and other aspects involved with the financial, business, and liability prevention of the horse world, or civil litigation for when contracts fail (or were never written).

Basically, I participate in almost every area involving horses!
However, I don't pursue suits based on equine welfare.  The reason is two-fold: 1) the prosecution of people who violate equine welfare is criminal law (and I am in civil) and 2) there are a number of animal rights groups, welfare watch groups, pro bono and non-profit organizations, etc. that do rescue abused horses and prosecute violators of welfare laws.

Photo Source: an intriguing new to me photographer, Michael Friberg

However, it should go without saying that even though I don't practice in welfare, I still care deeply for the well-being of horses. 

Los Angeles, CA is a city of extreme wealth (hello Hollywood), but also of extreme deprivation (contributing to the outrageous gang life).  Nevertheless, I am still shocked to disbelief at the horrible suffering of horses in the city.  Click here to read an article on a particular equine abuse case in LA (caution: graphic photo).

That article, and various other recent welfare news stories and blog topics have prompted me to point out some of my opinions on equine welfare issues.

Number One: I believe equine welfare is the responsibility of every horse owner.  If you have a pampered $100K horse in a show barn, you aren't relieved from being aware of welfare issues, and you should not turn a blind eye to the overpopulation problem in the U.S.  If you see abuse, report it.  If you think a horse isn't going to the right home, prevent it. (And don't forget abuse comes in many forms: while malnourishment is frequently in the news, it is also abuse to subject horses to cruel and unlawful training techniques.)

Number Two: I commend inventive and progressive rescue and rehabilitative programs.  I really love the programs where prison inmates are asked to care for and rehabilitate a horse; I think that is such a win-win situation.  Read this recent article on a newly opened equine program at a women's facility, here.

Number Three: I believe it is necessary to have laws on the state books that punish animal abusers, and also laws that provide for enforcement of those laws.  (See here for Nevada's recently passed "Cooney Law" that elevates animal abuse from a misdemeanor to a felony.  Scroll down until you see a picture of "Cooney" the dog.)

Number Four: be open minded.  Some people think rounding up wild mustangs is in the mustangs' best interest, and some think wild mustangs shouldn't ever be touched.  Some think that allowing horses to pull carriages is abuse, and others think that without a job, you are signing a horse's death warrant.  Celebrate the common ground: you both have horses' best interests at heart.  I am always so disappointed to see the dissension, rancor, and aggressiveness between horse people who really all just love and want the best for horses.  Find ways to share your points of view and move forward towards a solution, rather than get stuck debating the problem.

As I always say when it comes to anything with horses: prevention is key.  I'd rather prevent a horse from being abused than rescuing and rehabilitating it later.
 Sometimes horse abuse is not intentional, it just arises from a lack of knowledge and education. 
Everyone needs to know what training techniques are safe and acceptable, and which are not.  
Everyone needs to know where to take a horse, or the resources available, when one can no longer can afford clean and sufficient roughage and nutrition.

What do you think of my points of view in Numbers 1-4?
Do you think creating criminal laws is the best prevention, or through education and resources? (And if you think education and resources, do you think the government or non-profits/ individuals could serve that need?)

This Business of Horses: Horses on Trial

I've been gone working on a big equine case, but I want to pop in for some blog time!
I love that equine law encompasses such a wide field, such as: labor and employment, immigration, constitutional, welfare, gambling, etc.
But this post happens to be right on the money with everyday life for the active horse participant.

There is a LinkedIn Group called This Business of Horses, and there was a recent forum discussion regarding whether you would ever permit a horse to go out on trial.  
I have learned that, for myself, I would find it unwise to purchase a horse without taking it on trial.  I was surprised however to see such a solid argument AGAINST permitting a horse to go out on trial. 

 I think it depends on the horse and the level of rider taking the horse- I would be wary to let a beginner take a horse on trial back to a home barn, but I feel comfortable allowing an intermediate rider take my horse into a training stable where an accomplished trainer will work with the duo.

What I recommend for horses going on trial:
1. A check be written for the full purchase price when the horse is picked up (though of course it cannot be deposited until or unless the prospective buyers decide they want the horse and a Bill of Sale is signed)
2. That the prospective buyers take the horse for only one week and pay for major medical or mortality insurance on the horse from the time it leaves the property (I have found one week policies are about $75.00, and WELL worth the peace of mind for BOTH parties!)
3. That an appropriate trial agreement/ contract is written requiring among other aspects, that the horse be returned in the same condition as it left the property, free from lameness, injury, or defects.  If the horse is not returned in the same condition then the owner of the horse is entitled to either receive the insurance proceeds or cash the check.  Other provisions may account for who may ride the horse, whether the horse can jump/ how often, if the horse can go to a show or be trailered off the prospective buyer's property, a release of liability if the buyers are injured on the horse, etc.

On that note, this is a quote I really appreciated from the forum moderator, Laura Kelland-May, who is a Canadian Senior Judge in Hunter Jumper Hack:
" - having a good contract is something that a[ ]lot of horse people really don't [e]nforce. When I see a seller offering a contract I know they are business people and want to make sure everyone is protected. They want to protect their horse as well as make sure that the horse is the best match for the prospective buyer. These are not the people new horse buyers have to be weary of ... these are the people that make their money from satisfied horse owners and quality horses.
 How do you feel about letting a horse go on trial as a seller, or taking a horse on trial as a prospective buyer?

If you are firmly entrenched in one opinion, have a read through the forum post to see how your arguments measure up to the opposing side!

Vet Week: Success!

We have come to the end of Vet Week!
I had been worried about a sufficient tie of the equine veterinary world with the legal purpose of this blog, but the guest posts and comments from our readers really exceeded my expectations.

Cool, or creepy? Horses made from Driftwood.
Source: and to see the sculpting process!

I know the Vet Week posts were a bit longer than usual, but my goal was that you found them applicable to your life, or at the very least an interesting read!
Many thanks to the readers, subscribers, and followers of Ribbons and Red Tape; for the blog award and for the re-posting of Dr. Knopf's pre-purchase tips on Alison Rowe's great equine legal blog.

I plan on posting more vet-related topics in the future, but I will branch out and feature different "focus weeks" in the next few months of 2011 (can you believe we're almost at year's end!?)

I vote cool! By artist Heather Jansch

Thank you for following along this week, and I hope you gained some valuable knowledge and resources to use for your own equine life!

Vet Week: The Unlawful Practice of Veterinary Medicine

 I provide a large disclaimer in my left column that I am not yet licensed (California takes forever to send out bar results!) because I cannot engage in the unauthorized practice of law, which includes giving legal advice or signing legal briefs, among other tasks.

In the same way, veterinarians cannot engage in the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine, though the boundaries between lawful practice, unlawful practice, licensed vet technicians, or unlicensed pet-services providers can at times be a bit blurry.

Here are a few examples:
"The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is preparing a crusade against unlicensed veterinary medical activities such as anesthesia-free teeth cleaning for dogs and cats, ultrasound pregnancy testing of livestock and physical rehabilitation for animals of all sorts." (from the 2010 article cited at the end of this post)
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA):
"There are four states with felony penalties for the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine: Florida, Michigan, New York and Nevada. The majority of states provide only a misdemeanor penalty for unauthorized practice and most states have provisions allowing for injunctions, cease and desist orders and monetary fines."
Individual state veterinary boards have control over licensed veterinarians, so if there is misconduct, a vet's license can be suspended or revoked; if someone practices veterinary medicine without a license (such as diagnosing or treating animals), the state veterinary boards have no authority to reprimand them for misconduct.

It seems pet owners are more-frequently susceptible to unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine with:
Groomers: who do more than groom.  One example is a groomer who allegedly broke a dog's jaw while cleaning its teeth; the case was dismissed for a lack of witnesses
Alternate-Medicine: equine physical therapists, rehabilitation specialists, animal masseuses, animal dental hygienists (who are only allowed to brush and floss, but cannot do more without vet supervision under California law), arthritis specialists, etc.  may be engaging in the unauthorized practice of vet medicine (whether intentionally or or not) 

Those who engage in unauthorized practice argue that they would be happy to work under a vet, but they cannot find a vet willing to supervise them; or, they say that vet care is costly, and they provide an alternate and affordable supply of services to meet the demand.

Allowing your horse to receive veterinary care under a non-licensed vet or vet technician can endanger your horse, and it actually can be more expensive or physically harmful to your horse in the long-run if a vet is required to repair what an unlicensed practitioner may have missed or done wrong.
Vets are trained to not only perform the requested task, but to also be aware of other health issues in the whole horse.

I am not asserting that all unlicensed practitioners would harm your horse's health, however, as frustrating as it may be that I cannot practice law until a piece of paper comes in the mail, I believe that for the purpose of controlling the quality of care provided to the state's animals, drawing a line between a license or not is necessary; I would recommend licensed care for your horses.
 (Though some groups are trying to change the strict guidelines to encompass more low-cost care providers in less-technical service to animals, such as physical therapy- see article linked at the end of this post.)

One final point: for those of you who perform veterinary tasks on your own animals (such as dental cleaning beyond brushing/flossing), for the most part you are permitted to do so because your animals are your private property.  And this seems to also be the case for private welfare and non-profit rescue organizations (at least in N.C.) Typically it is receiving compensation in any form that is a red flag for "engaging in" the unauthorized practice.  However, even though a pet is private property, a person would be subject to welfare laws if their "vet treatment" is inhumane, painful, or harmful to the animal.

For an interesting article on the subject click here.

I know this post doesn't provide concrete answers as to how each state defines what is, or is not, veterinary care; but where do you think the line should be drawn as to what type of care should require a board-certified, licensed veterinarian?
Would you consider using a non-licensed vet for your horse's veterinary needs?

Vet Week: Veterinary Malpractice

{I do not support frivolous or retaliatory lawsuits, however, I don't think vet week would be complete without addressing this oft-asked about issue}

Veterinary malpractice is quite different from medical malpractice.  Most obviously, in medical malpractice a human being has (allegedly) been injured, whereas in veterinary malpractice it is personal property (the horse) that has been injured.  
Veterinary malpractice is different than suing for veterinary negligence, though both involve establishing that the vet has violated the standard of care (acting with the skill expected of a similar veterinarian under a similar circumstance, or of a Reasonably Prudent Person).
 They key distinction is that malpractice applies to those acting in a professional capacity.  Originally malpractice claims were limited to doctors or lawyers, but now the definition of "professional" has expanded.  Some states specifically include veterinarians in the malpractice statutes/ laws, while others do not.  
California Business and Professions Code (Section 4883) specifies that a vet may have his or her license suspended, revoked, or other penalty for violation of particular veterinary professional rules.

One of my favorite equine legal resources, the animal law center at Michigan State University (a link is in embedded in a photo in the left column of this blog), provides a great example to highlight the distinction between veterinary negligence and veterinary malpractice:

When a veterinarian is acting in other than his or her professional capacity, the normal negligence standard is used. For example, if a veterinarian performs surgery on a horse, the surgery shall be judged under malpractice standards, but if a veterinarian is arranging for the transportation of a horse by trailer, the reasonable person standard applies, since the activity is not within the bounds of his professional knowledge or skill.

It should be noted that even if an animal owner succeeds in the malpractice action, financial recovery is typically rather minimal for the death of an animal, especially as compared to the loss of a human life, because the animal owner must prove monetary damages to him or herself (and less commonly, emotional damages are recognized).
 Examples of financial loss: the death of a stallion that earns income from cover fees or a winning racehorse that can no longer race due to veterinarian wrongdoing.
Often the vet fees can be recovered, which are often also recoverable in a private settlement with the vet, thus sparing the high costs of litigation.

If you feel your horse has suffered from veterinary malpractice, consult with an equine attorney who can evaluate whether you have a case or not.
We all need to remember that just like doctors, veterinarians cannot always save every patient despite using the best skills and technology available- suing the vet will not bring your horse back to you.

Here is a checklist of what you should do if you suspect your veterinarian of malpractice (it is brief but very helpful!)

Click here for veterinary malpractice cases, some of which the horse owner won, and some of which the defendant veterinarian won.

Further b(law)g resources:

Equine attorney Julie Fershtman shares a post in which she was featured on the radio show Horses in the Morning.  In the show she discusses what is, and what is not, veterinary malpractice.

And Alison Rowe's equine legal blog shares a number of articles on veterinary malpractice.  She has a great summary of preventative action to veterinary malpractice, with which I will close this post:
Take aways: 
1) Use good vets that you know and trust; if you don't know a good vet, ask other horse owners in the area for a referral; 2) if your horse is valuable, get major medical and mortality insurance on the horse; and 3) if you suspect malpractice, your first call should be another veterinarian so you can get an idea of whether or not the standard of care was breached. That will be your ultimate issue.

Vet Week: A Veterinarian's Advice Part II

I am happy to present Part II of Dr. Knopf's contribution to Vet Week.
In this post, she follows-up her client's story of a purchase-gone-wrong with preventive measures and advice.
On a nicely alliterative note: Ribbons and Red Tape presents Recommendations and Red Flags!

Dr. Knopf on her way to her equine patients at the circus

Red Flags in  purchasing  a Show horse:

1. Be cautious in purchasing any horse that has been turned out to pastured/not ridden for 6 months or more, regardless of reason given (my daughter is going to college, we haven’t had time to ride…).
a. Reason: Many horses that suffer from a career-altering injury are turned out to pasture/ not exercised for at least 6 months. These horses will often appear sound when ridden, until they are returned to a regular work schedule.
2. Be cautious in purchasing any horse that is currently not training or showing at the level of your intended use.
a. Reason: The higher the level of competition, the higher the physical demand on the horse. Subtle problems may not be seen until he is training at a higher level.
3. Be cautious in purchasing any horse where the current owner wants to choose the veterinarian
for pre-purchase exam, discourages you from having a pre-purchase exam, or discourages you from using a veterinarian of your choice.
a. Reason: Sadly, the horse business is not immune to fraud and neither is the veterinary world. By choosing a veterinarian that does not have a direct relationship with the seller, you can protect yourself from a potentially biased opinion.
4. Be cautious when purchasing a horse whose selling price is far below current market value.
a. Reason: “too good to be true” often is! It is frequently said that “there is no such thing as a free horse.” Horses require significant expense to feed, house, shoe, train and provide veterinary care.

Recommendations when purchasing your new horse:

1. Protect yourself! Always have a contract.
2. Always, always, always have a pre-purchase exam performed. Regardless of length of familiarity with the horse or seller, there should always be a thorough pre-purchase exam performed to provide you with a complete understanding of the health of the animal you are purchasing.
3. For the pre-purchase exam, choose a veterinarian that is familiar with the breed and discipline of the horse and does not have a direct relationship with the seller.
4. Always have a veterinarian pull and store blood at the time of pre-purchase exam. This blood can be stored for several weeks. If you purchase the animal and later suspect the horse may have been under the influence of a medication at time of exam, the serum can be analyzed for medication and may provide you with legal recourse if necessary.

The extra time, effort and expense to legally protect yourself and gather pertinent information on your potential new horsey family member is well worth it when you consider Mrs. Merriweather’s predicament.  She currently owns a horse that is not suitable for regular riding, will be difficult to re-sell, and will cost significant expense for feed, housing, shoeing and veterinary care. It is heart-breaking to know that this situation would have been avoided if she had followed some of the recommendations above.

 Another day at the office! Dr. Knopf assisting one of her injured patients

Thank you once again Dr. Knopf for your contribution to Vet Week!
Greater equine veterinary and legal knowledge is helpful to both horse owners and the equine professionals working with them.
I am so glad that readers can have Dr. Knopf's checklist as a resource for personal use or to give to friends who are planning on purchasing a show horse. 

Please be aware all content on this site is original and copyrighted to the author(s), with the exception of photos or text that contain a link to an alternate source.  Express permission must be received for use of any  materials on this blog.  A link back to this blog is permissible for content quoted on other blogs, though subject to removal upon request.

Due to some concern, Dr. Knopf shares about the injured horse in the photo above:
"The horse ran through a fence when frightened from a thunderstorm.  She is now completely healed and suffers no lasting effects."

Beautiful repair job!

Vet Week: A Veterinarian's Advice Part I

Welcome to the newest feature on Ribbons and Red Tape, where a different aspect of the equine world will be given an entire week to be discussed from a legal perspective.  
This week I am excited to introduce Dr. Camille Knopf, a veterinarian in Northern California.  Dr. Knopf graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and runs her private practice, Silverado Equine.  Dr. Knopf has a diverse practice with an emphasis in health of the whole horse, including the provision of an advanced acupuncture technique to help horses feel their best.  Most of all, I'm excited to introduce Dr. Knopf because she is my sister!  Please enjoy her insight into the intersection of the veterinary and legal world in today and tomorrow's posts.

Without further ado, please welcome Dr. Knopf to Ribbons and Red Tape:


Hello blog readers! I am thrilled to share with you some of my experiences as an equine veterinarian.  When you choose to have a life filled with horses, it can bring you so much passion, joy and entertainment. Sadly, I often see well-intentioned clients not experience this “happily ever after” after purchasing a horse, simply due to lack of information. Below is a story of one of my clients, a story that I witness on a regular basis. Learn from Mrs. Merriweather* and don’t let this scenario happen to you…

Mrs. Merriweather and her daughter love horses and love to ride. One day Mrs. Merriweather was talking about her love of horses with a friend at work. This co-worker, Mrs. A, mentioned that she actually had a wonderful horse for sale that may be the perfect fit for Mrs. Merriweather's daughter. Mrs. A said she was only selling him because her daughter was going off to college. Mrs. Merriweather and her daughter drove into the foothills that weekend to take a look at “Rubio.” Rubio was a beautiful horse, a dappled grey gelding with a gentle personality. Mrs. A gave a glowing review of the horse: he used to train at a renowned show barn, he had never had any health issues, and she was willing to sell him at a very reasonable price because they had no need for him at the time. Mrs. Merriweather’s daughter rode the horse in the owner’s arena and fell in love. Mrs. Merriweather felt comfortable purchasing the horse because she was friends with Mrs. A, her daughter enjoyed riding the horse, and he was selling for a reasonable price for a horse with his training history. She wrote the check and arranged for the horse to be shipped to their local barn.

Upon arrival of the new horse, Mrs. Merriweather promptly calls me, her equine veterinarian, as she wants to be conscientious in the care of her new horse. She requests an examination and for me to perform any necessary preventative care. Upon examination I quickly observed that the horse was lame in both front limbs. The lameness was very subtle on soft ground in the arena but became severe once the horse was moving on firm ground. There was no evidence of acute injury and it was clear that it was likely this horse was suffering from a chronic condition. Mrs. Merriweather and her daughter were devastated to hear the results of the exam but agreed with my advice that they should return the horse to Mrs. A, if possible, rather than spend a potentially large sum of money in diagnostics and treatments all without the guarantee of a sound horse in the end.

Mrs. Merriweather contacted her friend Mrs. A and was surprised to learn that Mrs. A was unwilling to take back Rubio. Mrs. A claimed that Rubio had never had any health problems; he was in perfect condition upon leaving her farm and had no obligation to refund any money or take the horse back.

Mrs. Merriweather’s disappointment turned to frustration and anger as she realized that she had spent thousands of dollars on a horse with significant health issues that would be costly to address.  She wanted to know if she would have any legal recourse against Mrs. A.

Sadly, Mrs. Merriweather had me examine the horse AFTER purchase. She also purchased the horse without any legal contract. She had felt secure in making the transaction because she knew the owner personally and had the horse examined by me immediately upon arrival at the barn. Unfortunately Mrs. Merriweather had placed herself in a situation where pursuing legal action would be expensive and time consuming.

Dear readers, this situation is very common in my veterinary practice. Too often, horses are purchased on the basis of good faith and trust. While it is imperative that a PRE-purchase veterinary examination should always be performed, regardless of circumstances, I have further recommendations as to potential “red flags” in the sale of a horse.....

A day at the office!


Quite the story, thank you for sharing it with us!
 The buyer lost her purchase price, lost a suitable horse for her daughter, and lost a friend in this transaction.
While of course there is almost always a way to initiate legal action, Dr. Knopf was correct in pointing out that (especially) because there wasn't a contract dictating what the parties should do in this circumstance, legal action to repair the damage done would cost the Merriweathers greatly in time and money, much more than if they had taken preventative legal measures.

Check back in tomorrow for Dr. Knopf's veterinary red flags and recommendations when purchasing a horse (and to consider including in a contract!)

*All names changed to protect the confidentiality of the parties involved

Americans with Disabilities Act and Guide Horses

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

You may be familiar with some of the more apparent aspects of the ADA, such as ramps into buildings, blue curbs, and buttons to open doors to offices and stores for those that are handicapped.

But you may not be as familiar with ADA regulations that involve the use of horses.

Animals can be trained and registered as guide animals, such as a seeing eye dog.  But another less-common registration is when an animal is used as a service animal.  I knew a law student who received a doctor's note that she had high anxiety and that her dogs help alleviate her condition.  With this note in hand the student received registration that her dog was a service animal, and she was able to keep her dog with her in rental apartments that were strictly "pet-free" because her dog helped with her stress disability.

San Francisco recently released information on how ADA regulations impact our local population, as noted in part below:

New Americans with Disabilities Act regulations say businesses don’t have to accommodate a person with a service animal unless it’s a dog or small horse specifically trained to help the owner, who must have a physical disability.

March 15: When stricter ADA laws were applied
About 500: Dogs registered in San Francisco every year as service animals
Animals no longer protected by the ADA:
  .      Birds
  .      Monkeys
The City’s stance
  .      Continue to allow any assisting animal on all municipal property

In summary: private businesses (i.e., landlords) are now only compelled to permit animals if the tenant has a physical disability, and the animal is a dog or small horse.

While the new regulations have certainly raised numerous discussions, I am particularly surprised and intrigued that it is "small horses" elected to share the guidance category with dogs.
Does this make sense to you?  That it would be horses and not monkey, birds, cats, or an animal with a little more grip than a hoof?

My horses have been a great emotional support to me, and I'm glad to know that if I ever had a physical disability, I would be permitted to register a "small horse" as a service animal in my home--despite often burdensome rental ordinances.

One last thought: my gelding is 17.2 hh, where is the line drawn at "small?"


My posts have been a little sparse lately; I have been particularly busy at the courthouse, but I have some great posts lined up for you in the near future!
(That includes the first guest post on this blog! You won't want to miss it!)

In the meantime, don't forget to keep up with my facebook page, featuring such posts as: