Horse Owners Laud Florida’s Upcoming ‘Equine Lemon Law’

March 6, 2008

When you buy a car, state law offers some protection against misleading sales techniques; Florida lawmakers decided horse buyers need a “lemon law,” too.

The law mandates the disclosure of “relevant medical conditions, defects and surgeries; the conduct or alterations that could affect the performance of a horse; and the need for a written bill of sale or similar documentation.”

The state Department of Agriculture is working on the final rules for the new law.

Morgan Silver, executive director of the Micanopy-based Horse Protection Association of Florida, thinks the law is “an excellent idea.”

Individuals have unknowingly bought horses that were diseased or had medical or behavioral problems, but they didn’t have the money to get them treated properly, buy a different horse or take legal action, Silver said. Many of those problem horses end up with her organization, which helps find homes for them.

“Sellers should disclose all medical or behavioral issues,” she said. “A bad horse isn’t like a bad car – it can hurt its owner.”

Silver also said some sellers have been known to drug horses to mask behavioral problems.

“I don’t know if that’s illegal, but it’s certainly unethical,” she said.

Sam Grenier, owner of Deep Creek Stables in Barberville, believes anyone operating as an honest and reputable horse-seller won’t have a problem with the law. “Most of the problem is with owners who don’t get schooled enough to keep a good horse healthy and respectful,” Grenier said. “Horses are like kids. It takes a lot of care to keep them good.”

Grenier especially likes the part of the law that mandates disclosure of health issues.

“A lot of horses have asthma or breathing problems, or problems with their teeth or hooves,” he said. “If people knew about them when buying the horse, they should get a better deal.”

Neil Bennett, owner of Jopp’s Tack Inc. in Port Orange, said some new owners discover too late the horse doesn’t “ride like they expected.”

“They thought it was gentle, but found out later it’s not,” Bennett said.

Most sellers will let buyers bring in their own veterinarian to check out the animal being sold, he said. The exams can include X-rays of the horse’s legs, if the buyer wants to go that far.

“For a new horse person, it’s not a bad idea to have it vetted,” Bennett said.

Some observers are concerned the current draft rules don’t go far enough to protect Florida consumers and the state’s $7 billion horse industry.

Agriculture Department spokesman Terry McElroy said a daylong hearing is set for April 7 in Tallahassee for comments on the draft rule before a proposed final rule is written, but even that can be challenged by anyone not satisfied with it.

“We hope to have a rule finalized sometime this year,” McElroy said.

Information from: The Daytona Beach News-Journal,

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