Equine Welfare Data Collective officials starts data collection

Equine Welfare Data Collective officials starts data collection

The Equine Welfare Data Collective (EWDC) is pleased to officially announce the start of data collection within the equine welfare industry.

The EWDC is collecting national data on equine welfare from transition centers, adoption centers, rescues, sanctuaries, shelters, and other organizations involved in equine welfare. We will measure progress and identify risks and opportunities within the industry, so organizations like yours can develop impactful and sustainable programs.

The success of the EWDC depends on a robust contribution of data from all organizations within the industry. The first round of data collection will focus on the population of intakes and outcomes within the United States. Online surveys will be distributed to EWDC affiliate organizations beginning immediately.

How does your organization become an affiliate? Affiliates must commit to responding to surveys on a quarterly basis. Participation in the EWDC is free, and all results will remain anonymous. Organizations that contribute data will be the first to receive the results and will be given an EWDC badge for their website to publicly demonstrate their commitment to our mission.

Granting organizations such as the Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC), The Right Horse Initiative (TRH), American Association of Equine Practitioners Foundation (AAEPF), and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) will be looking for your contribution to the EWDC as part of their funding considerations.

Your data contribution will provide more accurate study results to help you understand and communicate the scope of the issues you are tackling, better serve your community, and become a benchmark among industry leaders.

To become an affiliate or for more information, please contact Emily Stearns, EWDC program manager, at EWDC@HorseCouncil.Org.

AHC Announces Topic for 4th Quarter Webinar!

AHC Announces Topic for 4th Quarter Webinar

Webinar to focus on State Equine Liability Law

The American Horse Council (AHC) will conduct its fourth quarter webinar for 2018 examining the legal landscape that characterizes diverse state equine liability laws.  The hour-long session will feature two nationally recognized practitioners of equine law, Julie Fershtman, Esq. and Milton Toby, Esq.  The webinar will take place on Wednesday, November 14, at 3:00 pm ET.

According to the 2017 economic impact study analyzing the horse industry, more than 30% of U.S. households include equine enthusiasts among their ranks.  Nearly two-thirds of this group – or more than 17% of U.S. households – includes individuals who are active participants in equine activities making them subject to liability waivers.  The waivers can take the form of written contracts and/or signage placed on an equine property and may limit the rights and responsibilities of riders and property owners engaged in equine activities.   Because equine liability law is a state matter, the $122 billion U.S. horse industry is subject to a patchwork of disparate laws and regulations that vary across jurisdictions.  Ms. Fershtman and Mr. Toby will help us navigate the legal maze, identifying common threads that cross state lines, and analyze nation-wide legal trends impacting the equine sector.

Julie Fersthman is a shareholder in the Michigan-based law firm of Foster Swift.  Her law practice covers all equine breeds and disciplines and serves stables, industry professionals, associations, trainers, and show management.  Highly experienced in handling a variety of disputes involving the equine sector, Ms. Fershtman has served as special out-of-state counsel on equine-related lawsuits in 18 jurisdictions across the country.

Milton Toby is an attorney and award-winning author based in central Kentucky.  For the last decade, he has taught courses in equine commercial law, regulatory law, and federal income tax for the equine industry program in the University of Louisville’s College of Business.  A noted thoroughbred racing historian, Mr. Toby has written about high profile racing disqualification controversies and horse theft.

The webinar is open to both AHC members and non-members—we encourage everyone to attend! The webinar lasts approximately one hour, and will allow for Q&A at the end of each speaker’s presentation.  To register for the webinar, please contact Dennis Martinez at DMartinez@horsecouncil.org.  We look forward to having you join us on November 14.

AHC Releases Equine Microchip “Look-up” Website!

AHC Releases Equine Microchip “Look-up” Website

Washington DC – The American Horse Council is excited to announce the release of their new equine microchip lookup tool at www.Horselookup.org. This tool will allow the general public; most importantly horse owners, law enforcement and animal health officials, to search for association affiliation for horses that have been microchipped and registered with a participating organization. The American Horse Council is continuing to solicit participation from every U.S. organization that houses microchip information in an effort to make this tool as thorough as possible.

Microchip lookup services have existed for several animal species for years. Unfortunately, those lookup tools have certain limitations that prevented the entirety of the horse industry from being represented. Horselookup.org addresses those issues while also providing a central informational source for the equine industry concerning microchipping, as well as the promotion of microchipping as a form of permanent identification.

Horselookup.org also promotes the industry’s various Safety Net Programs. Safety Net Programs offer individuals the opportunity to attach their name to a horse’s registration for the purposes of providing an option for that horse should it ever be in need of a home. Safety Net Programs vary by organization and are managed by those participating organizations. If a horse is enrolled in a Safety Net Program, a special logo will appear with that animal’s search results specifying which program and the contact information for that organization.

The creation of Horselookup.org was possible thanks to a generous grant from the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). “The creation of the Equine Microchip Look-up Tool is a vital step to reaching the ASPCA’s goal of ensuring all equines have good welfare,” said Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of ASPCA Equine Welfare. “The tool will not only help reunite horses with their owners during natural disasters, but it will also help to facilitate the growth of safety net programs where individuals who have owned, cared for or admired a horse can sign up to help that horse should he ever become at risk.”

We are very grateful to the early adopters of this new AHC led industry initiative; The Jockey Club and their Thoroughbred Connect Program, US Equestrian (USEF), Datamars, Inc. and their PetLink.net registry, Microchip ID Systems, Inc. and their Equine Protection registry as well as their LifeTrac Safety Net Program. The complete list of supporting organizations can be found here.

Please visit https://www.horselookup.org/ for more information, or contact Cliff Williamson at cwilliamson@horsecouncil.org at the American Horse Council.

Horse Industry Gathers in DC, Moves Key Priorities Toward the Finish Line!

October 1, 2018

Horse Industry Gathers in DC, Moves Key Priorities Toward the Finish Line!

On Wednesday, September 26 and Thursday, September 27, horse industry representatives gathered in Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers and advocate for passage of the industry’s top legislative priorities.  During a meeting with leaders of the Congressional Horse Caucus and other industry allies on September 26, members learned more about positive developments related to a funding boost for equine assisted therapy and industry-specific provisions of the 2018 farm bill and guest worker visa legislation.  Prospects for another enforcement delay for the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate and progress on trails legislation also emerged as reasons to run into the home-stretch of the 115th Congress on a high note.  During the two day meeting series, horse industry advocates met in the offices of more than 35 elected officials.   Below are summaries of highlights emerging from the Fall “Ride-In.”

Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) Emerges as a Win-Win for Heroes and Horses

Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) briefed horse industry representatives on the latest boost to EAT funding included in the new FY2019 Veterans’ Affairs spending bill, which the president signed into law on September 21.  The new law increases EAT funding to $1.5 million, a 50 percent increase from FY2018 levels.  Rep. Barr (R-KY) spoke passionately about the dual benefits to veterans returning to civilian life, and the opportunities for working horses to have “second careers” as therapeutic animals.  Studies show that EAT can effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder that afflicts many U.S. veterans.

Farm Legislation Includes Cutting-Edge Animal Health Programs, Lawmakers Address Industry-Specific Statutory Definition

While the industry has successfully advocated for a trifecta of livestock health programs in both versions of the farm bill – creation of the National Animal Health Vaccine bank, a new National Disaster Preparedness Program and support for the National Animal Health and Laboratory Network – differences over the scope of nutrition assistance programs have stalled agreement on a final package.  House Agriculture Committee Vice Chairman G.T. Thompson (R-PA) informed AHC that he believed that the House and Senate would ultimately find common ground on a final bill before the end of the year.  Echoing statements made during several meetings, Rep. Thompson (R-PA) also expressed optimism that the final bill would drop language included in the senate version that defines horses as “pets” within the context of a “Pet and Women Safety” (PAWS) provision.  Industry has suggested that lawmakers delete “horses” from the proposed, statutory definition of “pets,” but retain “horses” as a stand-alone category.  This would retain the long-standing classification of horses as “livestock,” while allowing equines to fall within the scope of property damage subject to compensation within the parameters of the PAWS Act.

Congressional Allies Continue to Fight for Guest-Worker Visa Flexibility, Equine-Specific Labor Needs

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) discussed the AG and Legal Workforce Act of 2018 (H.R. 6417), which would reform the broken agricultural guest worker visa program.  Among other benefits to the industry, the legislation clearly states that personnel involved in the “management and training of equines” will qualify to participate in a newly-created H-2C visa program for farm workers.   Since Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the bill in late June, it has gained 110 co-sponsors.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) discussed a second vehicle important to the industry, his provision in the FY2019 DHS (H.R. 6776) appropriation which addresses the stringent 66,000 cap imposed on the issuance of H-2B visas by providing an exemption for returning workers.   This “returning worker” exemption not only provides much needed cap relief, but will reduce red tape for seasonal employers.  Congress will likely not finalize the bill until after the November election.

Will Trails Legislation Cross the Finish Line?

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) lauded the fact that both the Recreation Not Red-Tape (RNR) Act (H.R. 3400) and the Restore Our Parks Act (H.R. 6510) passed his committee favorably, and are placed on the House calendar for a possible vote before the end of the year.  While neither companion bill in the Senate has yet received a hearing, senate aides stated that there was reason to be optimistic that Restore Our Parks (S. 3172) would receive a hearing in the fall.  Of the two major trails bills that the horse industry supports, it appears that Restore Our Parks, which would address backlog trails maintenance, has the better chance of crossing the finish line before the end of the year.  Stay tuned.

Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act Gains Supporters 

No new information emerged during the meeting series to raise the prospects for passage of the PAST Act.  However, the Senate version of the bill (S. 2957) has gained 32 cosponsors.  Sen. Crapo’s (R-ID) office stated that they were optimistic that the bill would have no shortage of supporters during the next congress. AHC will continue to keep you updated on any changes to the prospects for this important equine health legislation.

Horse Industry Focuses on Congressional Leaders, Leverages Message

While the bulk of the Hill meetings during the ride-in focused on constituent-specific officials, the industry also met with leaders who have jurisdiction over the sector’s major legislative issues.  Horse industry representatives were able to meet with chairmen of the House Judiciary Committee and House Natural Resources Committee, as well as the Vice Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.  On the Senate side, AHC members and guests talked to senior staff in the offices of the Senate Majority Leader and Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, among others.   If you’d like more information related to the meeting series and next steps, please contact Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org or 202-296-4031.

Reps. Andy Barr (R-KY) and David Valadao (R-CA) kick off a meeting of the Congressional Horse Caucus.

Congress Extends ELD exemption through Dec. 7th

September 28, 2018

Congress has sent a spending bill to the White House in an effort to avert an Oct. 1 government shutdown and push the discussion regarding final appropriations until after the November elections. H.R. 6157 includes a continuing resolution that would extend funding for those agencies not covered by completed appropriations bills, including agriculture and transportation. This will extend the ELD protections the horse industry has enjoyed through December 7, 2018.  The President has said he will sign this bill package to avert a shutdown.

By December 7th Congress will either do another extension or pass the 2019 spending package, which includes the ELD delay for livestock haulers, leaving these haulers exempt from ELD use until September 30, 2019.

The AHC is continuing to work with both the FMCSA and Congress to identify a permanent solution to the unintended consequences to new and existing CDL and ELD regulations that have proven to be problematic.

For more information please contact Cliff Williamson at the American Horse Council.

House Appropriators Score Win for Horse Industry, Advance H-2B Visa Cap Relief!

July, 26 2018

House Appropriators Score Win for Horse Industry, Advance H-2B Visa Cap Relief!

On July 25, the House Appropriations Committee convened a mark-up for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  By voice vote, the committee approved an amendment that exempts returning workers from the 66,000 statutory cap imposed on the H-2B guest worker visa program, providing much needed H-2B visa cap relief advocated by the horse industry and its allies.  The amendment, offered by Congressional Horse Caucus Members Rep. Andy Harris, MD (R-MD) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), among others, applies to workers who have received guest worker visas during the previous two years.  Additionally, the provision also establishes a visa allocation system that disburses work permits on a quarterly basis.  Lawmakers believe that the quarterly system will create more flexibility for employers whose labor demands do not align with the semi-annual allocation system, whereby DHS awards permits on April 1 and October 1.  The horse industry and its allies in the H-2B Coalition fight for a variety of flexibility measures, including a straight-forward increase in the visa cap, or generous exemptions from the statutory cap, such as those for returning workers. 

Pointing to another flexibility measure, Rep. Harris (R-MD) released a statement explaining the importance of a provision that allocates visas on a “proportional” rather than a “winner take all” basis.  Under this provision, DHS would award a portion of all timely, requested visas to all applicants, even in the event that “the higher limits authorized by [the] amendment are not enough to satisfy all the needs in a given year.”  To view a copy of Rep. Harris’s statement, please click here:  https://harris.house.gov/media/press-releases/house-appropriations-committee-approves-harris-language-repairing-h-2b-visa.   

While the House spending bill advances the goal of effectively raising the H-2B visa cap, the Senate version of the bill doesn’t address the H-2B visa issue, setting up an item to be negotiated during a House and Senate conference.  Although lawmakers intend to finalize their spending measures before the current FY ends on September 30, this is a deadline that Congress rarely meets.   As in years past, Congress may pass a series of “continuing resolutions” to fund the federal government.  AHC will keep you posted on developments related to the H-2B measure as the FY2019 appropriations process moves forward.  To view a copy of the three-page amendment, please click here: https://www.horsecouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/HARRMD_037_xml-offered-2-1.pdf

If you’d like more information related to the guest worker issue, including ongoing grassroots outreach from the horse industry, please contact Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org or 202-296-4031. 

Senate Acts Quickly to Move Farm Bill, Advances Some Animal Health Priorities

June 29th, 2018

Senate Acts Quickly to Move Farm Bill, Advances Some Animal Health Priorities

Following through on a commitment to pass a farm bill prior to the Fourth of July recess, on Thursday evening, June 28, the Senate passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (S. 3042) by a vote of 86 to 11. Unlike the House version of the bill that narrowly passed by a two vote margin on June 21, the Senate bill moved forward with strong, bipartisan support. Fortunately for the horse industry, the Senate package resembles the House version by addressing many of the sector’s top animal health priorities.   Highlights include authorization of a new National Animal Disaster Preparedness and Response (NADPR) program; support for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN); and creation of the National Animal Health Vaccine Bank that will focus on risks posed by Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

With respect to authorization of animal health programs, a preliminary review shows that the Senate bill more closely aligns with horse industry priorities than the House bill. For example, the Senate bill authorizes $30 million each year to fund the NAHLN, matching the request from the horse industry and its partners.  Although the bill doesn’t authorize specific dollar amounts for the NADPR and the vaccine banks, it creates flexibility by “authorizing sums as necessary” to implement the programs.

AHC will continue to review the senate version of the bill for provisions that could impact the industry, including programs administered by the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service that could help develop international markets for the sector. Now that each chamber has reported its respective bill, Congress will convene a House and Senate Conference Committee to negotiate a final package to send to the White House for enactment.  AHC is already reaching out to congressional negotiators to underscore the industry’s priorities as the legislation moves forward. For more information related to farm legislation and related advocacy, please contact Bryan Brendle, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, at 202-296-4031.  To view a copy of a summary of the bill, please click here:

https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/2018-farm-bill

Farm Bill, Take 2! House Lawmakers Pass Ag Legislation, Boost Animal Health Programs

June 21, 2018

House Lawmakers Pass Ag Legislation, Boost Animal Health Programs

In the wake of a failed vote on the 2018 farm bill on May 18 – largely precipitated by controversy surrounding unrelated immigration policy issues – on June 21, House lawmakers revisited the legislation and finally passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) by a vote of 213 to 211.  Since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that he plans to pass companion legislation in the upper chamber before July 4, Congress appears to be poised to finalize a bill prior to expiration of Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs on September 30.  During meetings on Capitol Hill the week of June 11, multiple senate offices echoed a commitment to the deadline, reminding members of the horse industry that the chamber is prepared to work into the August recess to complete its legislative business prior to the mid-term elections in the fall.         

Fortunately for the horse industry, the $868 billion, five-year package includes provisions addressing some of AHC’s top priorities:  authorization of a new National Animal Disaster Preparedness and Response (NADPR) program; additional support for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network; and creation of the National Animal Health Vaccine Bank that will prioritize risks posed by Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), among other threats. 

A preliminary review of the bill shows that although lawmakers generally met industry’s full funding request – totaling $250 million for the priority issues outlined above – for FY2019 only, the bill reduces those funds during subsequent fiscal years.  For example, the horse industry and its partners requested $70 million each year to fund the NADPR, but received $30 million for 2020 and beyond.  Fortunately for the horse industry, the final bill authorizes $150 million for a “priority FMD vaccine bank,” opening the door for funding vaccines that will mitigate other diseases.

AHC will continue to advocate for industry priorities as the legislation moves forward.  To view a copy of the legislation, please click here: https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr2/BILLS-115hr2rh.pdf.   

Successful Barr Amendment Gives $5 Million Boost to Equine-Assisted Therapy for Veterans

On Friday, June 8, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 5895, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (VA) Appropriations Act.  Per an amendment offered by Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), the House bill increases funds for Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) by $5 million.  Specifically, the Barr amendment directs appropriators to “transfer $5 million from the VA’s Health Administration’s (VHA) Medical Community Care Account to the Medical Services Account for the explicit use for the VA’s Adaptive Sports Grant (ASG) program, equine assisted therapy.” On Monday, June 4, AHC sent a letter of support to House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) urging the committee to rule the Barr amendment “in order” so that it could be adopted on the House floor.

By way of background, Congress has already endorsed robust EAAT measures by approving increased funds for EAAT within the FY2018 omnibus.  By approving the Barr Amendment to FY 2019 appropriations, Congress re-enforces an important commitment to our nation’s warriors when they return from combat.  According to a clinical study conducted in conjunction with Columbia University, an estimated 14% to 30% of U.S. veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Congress can help mitigate PTSD by boosting EAAT. 

The U.S. horse industry employs nearly one million Americans and contributes $122 billion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  EAAT programs not only provide valuable services for U.S. veterans, but the operations also support jobs for a growing number of working Americans, and “second careers” for horses who would otherwise retire from racing or other working roles.  According to a 2017 economic impact study, EAAT supports more than 6,700 jobs and generates $311.7 million in annual revenues in the U.S.  If you have questions related to AHC’s support for Rep. Barr’s Amendment to H.R. 5895, please contact Bryan Brendle, AHC’s Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, at 202-296-4031. 

DHS Sets High Bar for 15,000 Extra H-2B Visas for Racetracks, Horse Farms, Other Seasonal Employers

Following several weeks of tense discussions between Congress and the Administration, on June 1 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule in the Federal Register authorizing issuance of 15,000 additional H-2B visas for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018.  As reported this spring, Congress authorized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to raise its cap on H-2B temporary worker visas from the current cap of 66,000 to 129,500 visas for FY2018 within the context of the omnibus appropriations law passed in late March.  DHS states that by issuing 15,000 extra H-2B visas – significantly below the additional 63,500 authorized by the FY2018 omnibus – the agency will prioritize employers who demonstrate that they would suffer “irreparable harm” to their business unless they are able to hire additional seasonal workers during the summer and fall 2018 seasons.  DHS further states that it seeks to avoid possible abuse of the H-2B program by limiting the pool of extra visas to 15,000.    

According to the rule, DHS punts the broader temporary worker shortage issue to Congress, urging lawmakers to reform the Immigration and Nationality Act, which establishes the H-2B visa program.  During the course of the extended back-and-forth discussions between the legislative and executive branches this spring, DHS claims that only congressional action can provide long-term certainty with respect to the issuance of more guest worker visas.  According to federal regulators, addressing worker shortages through the annual appropriations process fails to create certainty, undercutting the ability of the business community to plan long-term.        

Since moving forward with a limited cap increase, DHS’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has outlined some practical considerations for filing an H-2B petition per the new regulation: 

  • An employer “must meet all existing H-2B eligibility requirements,” which includes receipt of “an approved temporary labor certification (TLC) from the Department of Labor (DOL) that is valid for the entire employment period stated on the petition.”  DHS reminds employers that “the employment start date on the petition must match the employment start date on the TLC, even if that date has passed.”
  • Employers must also “conduct a fresh round of recruitment for U.S. workers if the TLC contains a start date of work before April 15, 2018.”
  • And finally, a business must “submit an attestation on Form ETA 9142-B-CAA-2 (PDF)in which the petitioner affirms, under penalty of perjury, its business will likely suffer irreparable harm if it cannot hire all the requested H-2B workers before the end of the fiscal year.”  The agency provides Form ETA 9142-B-CAA-2 Instructions (PDF) to properly complete the attestation.
  • DHS further states that it “will not accept” an “expired ETA 9142-B-CAA from fiscal year 2017.” The agency will reject any “petition that does not include the new ETA 9142-B-CAA-2 attestation form for fiscal year 2018.” 

Recognizing the time constraints associated with the application process, DHS states that it will “adjudicate” applications within 15 calendar days for employers opting for “premium processing,” and 30 days for standard applications.  To learn more about how to fast-track an H-2B visa application, please click on the following link:  https://www.uscis.gov/forms/how-do-i-use-premium-processing-service. The unprecedented demand for guest worker visas this year will create a narrow time frame in which to submit an application.   

As details unfold related to practical considerations associated with the new rule, AHC will continue to inform members about developments and helpful anecdotes for members who are considering moving forward with summer applications. 

As a reminder, AHC will be conducting a panel discussion featuring congressional and industry experts on Tuesday, June 12, in Washington, D.C., as part of the association’s annual meeting.   To view a copy of the final rule, click here:  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-05-31/pdf/2018-11732.pdf.  To learn more about guest worker visas and broader immigration policy developments, please contact AHC’s Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org or 202-296-4031. 

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