The Florida equine industry and HB 239


State officials and experts laud new legislation

FLORIDA HAS A reputation as a horse-loving state and is home of a “Horse Capital of the World” title contender; Florida House Bill 239 proves there is also a lot of “horse sense” in the state government when it comes to the Sunshine State’s equestrian pursuits. Sponsored by Representatives Heather Fitzenhagen and Charlie Stone, the bill passed quickly through the Florida House of Representatives at the end of March. Governor Scott signed the bill in early June, a move that was lauded by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

Putnam said in a statement that the legislation Governor Scott signed “raises industry standards to a level that will continue to propel Florida forward as the premier state for horses,” and thanked the entire Legislature for bipartisan support of a bill that “will enhance the industry by improving horse health, prohibiting the use of certain medications and substances in horses, as well as increasing penalties for those who violate the law.”

Florida offers equine lovers horse racing, rodeo riding with Florida’s Cracker Cattle history, and a popular winter destination for many different horse shows and events. Aaron Keller, the Deputy Press Secretary for Commissioner Putnam’s office, maintains that HB 239 is “a huge win for the Florida horse industry and positions Florida to compete against any equine destination in the world.”

House Bill 239 does many things for the horse racing industry. First and foremost, it adopts current racing rules established by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI). All other horse racing states — Kentucky, California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland — have already adopted all or many of ARCI’s policies. With Florida hosting more than 3,000 races for thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses annually — four of which are qualifiers for the Kentucky Derby — the new legislation is welcomed by most horse racing-related organizations.

While existing laws concerning the use of medications and substances in horse racing exist, HB 239 calls for the adoption of the ARCI’s rules regarding what substances can be given to racing horses, in what quantities and in what specific time frames they can be administered. For instance, according to the Summary Analysis, the bill requires that “conditions and limitations” be set for the use of furosemide, a diuretic used to treat exercise-induced bleeding.

The bill also allows for the prosecution of those responsible for a racing horse’s health and medications — the licensee or trainer of record — without having evidence that the individual was the actual one responsible for administering the prohibited substance. HB 239 also increases the maximum fine for such violations from $5,000 to $10,000 or the amount of the purse, whichever is greater, and reduces the time table for prosecuting violations from two years down to 90 days. Keller reiterates that the HB 239 “law enhances Florida’s world-renowned equine industry by adopting national standards, improving horse health, prohibiting the use of certain medications and substances in horses, as well as increasing penalties for those who violate the law.”

CREDIT

story by ERIKA ALDRICH