The Daily Astorian Web site ran an Associated Press article on the upswing of more horses being abandoned in Oregon because of economic hardship and a proposed law that might help curb this action.
Under the provisions of Senate Bill 398, "a person commits the crime of animal abandonment if the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence leaves a domestic animal or an equine at a location without providing for the animal's continued care."
The article correctly states that, as livestock, horses can be legally abandoned by their owners. Current law only refers to abandonment of a domestic animal, i.e. a cat or dog. SB 398 modifies the crime of abandonment of domestic animals to include the abandonment of equines. However, it does not change the definition of a horse from livestock to that of a domestic animal. This is a significant distinction.
Our hope is that SB 398 brings further attention to concerns about equine abandonment. It is important that people who own horses, and who are struggling to care for them, notify law enforcement, animal control or humane shelters about their challenges. Simply letting these horses loose and hoping that someone else will take care of them if irresponsible. And, if SB 398 is approved by the Legislature, such action in the near future would be against the law.
Glenn M. Kolb
Oregon Veterinary Medical Association