Sen. Ryan Zinke, R-Whitefish, has proposed a bill that would make it a crime to abandon horses. From Lee newspapers’ Jennifer McKee:
Zinke’s bill would make it a misdemeanor, punishable with a fine up to $500, for people to abandon horses. More importantly, he said, the bill stipulates that guilty horse owners must reimburse authorities for the cost of rehabilitating and feeding an abandoned horse.
Several professionals who work with horses and the Montana Association of Counties spoke in favor of the bill. No one spoke against it.
My colleague, Dan Testa, wrote about horse abandonments this week. He found that while the number of cases of horse neglect has risen, local and state officials caution that the perception of the problem is even greater.
The neglect and abandonment of horses across Northwest Montana and the state is increasing as hay prices climb and a recession settles in, making it harder for owners of the animals to afford the cost of their care, according to local and state officials. But these officials also caution that the perception of high horse abandonment and neglect is significantly greater than the real scope of the problem
“We are seeing an increase in the number of abandoned horses,” Steve Merritt, spokesman for the Montana Department of Livestock, said. “I expect that it will continue and get worse.”
… But Merritt also said a number of high profile horse abandonment cases across the Pacific Northwest, and subsequent news stories generated by these cases, have created an outsized perception of the problem. This, coupled with the affection – if not always understanding – most people have for horses has resulted in livestock officials and animal wardens chasing a lot of false leads when it comes to horse abandonment and neglect.
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