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Jet-Setters of the Equine World: What You Need to Know About Travel

Hippo Foto/Dirk Caremans.

Hippo Foto/Dirk Caremans.

One of my favorite articles on Horse Nation last year was about how the horses and their gear got to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics. From the travel arrangements to health checks and baggage limits, international equine travel is no small feat. From a legal perspective, there is a whole host of things to consider. The U.S. Equestrian Federation has a nice overview for competing outside the USA, but here are a few highlights.

Passports

If you thought applying for a human passport was confusing and time-consuming, wait until your horse needs his first passport! The FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale or International Equestrian Federation) requires passports for international competition falling under the FEI’s oversight. Passports are also required for competition within the U.S. at the international level (e.g., a dressage CDI, eventing CCI or CIC, or show jumping CSI), though a U.S. national passport may be acceptable.

The FEI horse passport contains identification information, health information, and proof of ownership. The passport application requests information relating to the horse’s discipline, owner information, and contact information. Once submitted, the application can take four to six weeks to process. The application can be expedited for an additional $300.

Taking a pony international? They have their own pony passport application form! USEF requires an official pony measurement before issuing a pony passport.

Microchips

Beginning January 1, 2013, the FEI requires all newly-registered horses to be microchipped. Relatively cost effective, microchips are a form of permanent ID. With the pass of a scanner, a microchip confirms a horse’s identity. Microchips are increasingly popular for horse owners in general to keep track of our beloved animals. Along with being relatively inexpensive, they last a lifetime.

Health Certificates

Health certificates aren’t just for international travel – they are needed for domestic travel as well! A health certificate states that the horse is in good health and has a negative Coggins test.

Import & Export Laws

There are different terms for when horses cross international borders. It may be a permanent import, a temporary import, or a re-entry. Import laws govern when a horse comes into a country, while export laws govern when a horse leaves a country.

Just like people, horses have to go through customs. They also have to spend some time in quarantine. The length of time spent in quarantine depends on the country the horse is coming from. For instance, horses coming from countries that the U.S. Department of Agriculture considers to be affected with screwworm or Venezuelan equine encephalitis have to stay in quarantine for 7 days upon arrival in the U.S. This includes all countries in the Western hemisphere except Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the British Virgin Islands.

Horses coming from countries affected with African Horse Sickness, on the other hand, have to stay in quarantine for 60 days. These countries include Oman, the Yemen Arab Republic, and all countries in Africa except Morocco. The shortest length of quarantine is 3 days. Countries eligible for 3-day quarantine include European Union countries – including the U.K. – and a list of others.

USDA requires an application for import be filled out and submitted to the agency for processing. Importers must then contact the port veterinarian at a USDA operated Animal Import Center. The USDA will conduct several tests during quarantine, the results of which are generally available 3 days after the arrival date. The full USDA protocol for the importation of horses and other equines can be found here.

The U.S. has minimal requirements for exporting animals. However, the receiving country may have specific health requirements with which you should be familiar. You will need an international health certificate, which must be endorsed by a Veterinary Services area office.

The Jockey Club has its own set of rules for importing and exporting Thoroughbred racehorses. Horses bred outside of the U.S., Puerto Rico, or Canada must obtain a Certificate of Foreign Registration and the owner of the horse must submit a fee. The Jockey Club issues Foreign Racing Permits entitling foreign Thoroughbreds to race in the U.S., Puerto Rico, or Canada for a set amount of time.

The Arabian Horse Association also has its own process for importing and exporting horses. There is an Imported Horse Registration Application and the AHA requires an export request to be made with the foreign registering authority. That authority sends a set of documents to the AHA as proof of pedigree and ownership.

It is a good idea to contact an expert service to help navigate the import and export laws to ensure smooth travels. As with any detailed and specialized endeavor, hiring the experts can save a lot of time and frustration!

Note: this article touches on a few specific equine disciplines and industries. If your discipline or industry is not discussed, that is not to say there are not rules, processes, and procedures that you need to be familiar with.

For more of Kjirsten’s articles on equine law, click here to open a list.

Kjirsten Lee, J.D., is an equine attorney with rb LEGAL, LLC, in Golden Valley, MN. She has written on topics such as the Horse Protection Act and use of drugs in racehorses, as well as general legal issues that horse people may encounter. You can follow her on Twitter at @KMLee_Esq. Kjirsten and her OTTB Gobain, compete in dressage and eventing.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading and/or commenting on this post. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

Equine Law: Sales Agreements for Special Cases

Flickr/Office of Public Affairs/CC Flickr/Office of Public Affairs/CC

Each horse is as unique as the person buying or selling him — so what do you do with a sales contract for horses with special considerations? Equine attorney Kjirsten Lee explains.

I recently worked on a sales contract for a client who was selling a horse with some special considerations. The horse had been known to be aggressive in the pasture towards other horses and towards people. It also required corrective shoeing and needs to be sedated for the farrier.

These behavioral issues made the horse considerably less expensive than it would have been based on training and performance, but also made it even more important to find the right fit. These issues also made it essential to have a well-drafted sales agreement ensuring the prospective buyers were aware of and accepted the special considerations and potential risks associated with this horse.

Warranties. I always include an “as-is” clause in sales contracts I draft for clients. In this case, I made sure to include a special clause discussing the horse’s aggressive tendencies to be sure the potential buyers were aware. One way to be sure a potential buyer is aware and accepts any additional risk is to have line for the buyer’s initials next to an acknowledgement clause such as this:

______ Buyer has been made aware of Horse’s aggressive tendencies, including specific examples. Buyer accepts that these aggressive tendencies may increase the inherent risk involved in handling Horse. Buyer releases Seller and Seller’s agents from any liability for any damages that may result in the future from Horse’s disclosed aggressive tendencies.

By having a line for initials, the seller indicates that this clause is particularly important. The seller also can use this as stronger evidence to indicate that the buyer was made aware of and accepted any additional risk.

Special Considerations. This can be a useful clause when selling a horse with a known health concern. In my case, I used this clause to indicate the need for corrective shoeing. I also used this clause to indicate that the horse must be sedated for farrier work.

Assisting this client emphasized the need to have individualized contracts for each horse sale. While an internet contract may provide a template and guide, a knowledgeable equine attorney can help you draft a document specific to your situation. This is particularly important in cases such as mine, where a horse requires particular handling.

For more of Kjirsten’s articles on equine law, click here.

Kjirsten Lee, J.D., is an equine attorney with rb LEGAL, LLC, in Golden Valley, MN. She has written on topics such as the Horse Protection Act and use of drugs in racehorses, as well as general legal issues that horse people may encounter. You can follow her on Twitter at @KMLee_Esq. Kjirsten and her OTTB, Gobain, compete in dressage and eventing.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading and/or commenting on this post. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

Equine Law: Presenting the Liability Release

Equine attorney Kjirsten Lee explains why presentation is as key as content.

Photo: Flickr/Jean/CC. Photo: Flickr/Jean/CC.

I recently returned from the 31st Annual National Conference on Equine Law at the historic Keeneland Racetrack. One of the topics at the conference was liability releases: drafting, executing, and enforcing. One of the takeaways from the presentation (by Julie Fershtman, a wonderful equine lawyer based in Michigan) was that how you present the liability release is as important as the contents of that release.

“Presenting” in this context means how you give someone the release to sign. Some facilities and people provide releases online and request that new clients print and sign the release, and bring it with them their first time at the facility. Others simply hand new clients a form and ask them to sign and date on the line at the bottom. While these may be efficient methods of presentation, they are not always effective.

Why not? In order for a liability release to truly be effective, the signer must know what they are signing. Sounds simple, right? If you give someone a document, you expect them to read it and understand what it says. Unfortunately, that is not always the case – particularly, some would argue, with legal documents.

Especially with generic liability releases pulled off the internet or out of a book, the documents tend to be riddled with legalese and full of run-on sentences. Many of these documents can be difficult even for lawyers to make heads or tails of – let alone people with no legal training.

When someone is given a document full of big words and phrases like “inherent danger” and “release and hold harmless,” they frequently glance over it and sign on the dotted line. This can be especially true when that piece of paper stands between them and a horse! The problem is that later on, if the signer is injured and wants to bring a lawsuit, they might claim that they were rushed and did not have enough time to read and fully understand the document and the effect of their signature.

So how can presentation BE effective? The document should be presented in person to the signer. They should have the full opportunity to read it and ask questions. The person providing the release should be familiar enough with the document to explain anything the signer is confused about. It can sometimes be helpful to go through the document with the signer, especially if they are new to horses.

Takeaways. If you are providing releases – whether you are a boarding barn, trainer, show facility, or other equine business or horse owner – be familiar with your release and be prepared to explain it to new clients. Make sure you hand releases to your new clients and offer them the time and opportunity to fully read the documents and ask any questions they have before they sign the document. The goal is to make sure they fully understand what they are signing.

If you are asked to sign a release, read it! Do not be afraid to ask any questions you have. Make sure you understand precisely what you are signing. Then enjoy your ride!

For more of Kjirsten’s articles on equine law, click here.

Kjirsten Lee, J.D., is an equine attorney with rb LEGAL, LLC, in Golden Valley, MN. She has written on topics such as the Horse Protection Act and use of drugs in racehorses, as well as general legal issues that horse people may encounter. You can follow her on Twitter at @KMLee_Esq. Kjirsten and her OTTB, Gobain, compete in dressage and eventing.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading and/or commenting on this post. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

Equine Law: 5 Reasons to Perform a Legal Audit

Tax season is fully upon us! This is a great time of year for a legal audit of your horse business — equine lawyer Kjirsten Lee explains five good reasons why.

Flickr/Rick Bisio/CC Flickr/Rick Bisio/CC

This post originally appeared on our sister site, Horse Nation.

Down the hall from my office is an accounting firm and judging by the traffic in and out of their door recently, it must be tax season again! While you are counting up your assets and finalizing your business’ profits for 2015, it is a good time to consider a legal audit.

Most small businesses – including horse businesses – are mostly concerned with their bottom line, and can neglect fully protecting their assets. As a result, a business might become aware of a problem for the first time either when litigation arises or if the business is being sold. A legal business audit helps businesses be proactive by cleaning up documents and addressing areas of weakness. Here are a few things a legal audit can cover:

1. Organizational structure. An attorney conducting a legal audit looks at several things under this category. Among other things, they will consider whether the business is in the proper form of an organization – sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc. They will also look at the business formation records, any record-keeping policies and whether there are any affiliates and joint ventures associated with the business.

2. Human resources. All business owners know how important it is to have good people working for you! A great example is boarding barns – owners depend on reliable, knowledgeable staff to make sure every horse is properly taken care of and any boarder concerns are promptly and effectively addressed. When an attorney conducting a legal audit looks at human resources documents, they will go over employment policies, employee handbooks and materials, employment contracts, non-compete agreements and more. They will also consider whether individuals are properly classified as employees and independent contractors – a crucial distinction for employment law purposes. The attorney will also review any procedures and practices for compliance with applicable federal and state laws.

3. Tax forms. When you file your taxes, isn’t it nice when you have all the necessary documents in one place? A legal audit can help you assemble those documents to help you breeze through tax season like American Pharoah. The attorney conducting your legal audit will look at any applicable tax-exempt status, under which many non-profit organizations are classified (for instance, all 501(c)(3)s, including second-career organizations such as CANTER and the Retired Racehorse Project; therapy organizations such as We Can Ride; and rescue organizations). The attorney will also look at any unrelated business income and applicable taxes, including sales tax, employment tax and workers compensation tax.

4. Contracts & leases. As with all businesses, equine businesses enter into legal agreements with individuals and other businesses all the time. A trainer might lease a training facility or a boarding barn owner might lease equipment for making hay. Additionally, there are contracts for almost anything involving horses: sales, leases, breeding, training, buying, selling, having a trainer buy or sell a horse for you and so on. The legal audit will go through every contract and lease agreement with a fine-tooth comb, identifying any weaknesses in the documents and ensuring that your business complies with the representations and warranties made within the documents. The attorney conducting the legal audit will also look for any business relationships not covered by written agreements.

5. Business succession plans. Like all businesses, horse businesses can only go on if there is someone to run them. In conducting the legal audit, an attorney can help you plan for the future. They might review an existing business succession plan or be able to draft one if you don’t have one in place. This can also be a good time to talk about any estate planning needs you may have, both as a business owner and as an individual.

Having an equine lawyer conduct a legal audit helps you as a business owner take the reins on planning for your business’ future. An equine lawyer understands the similarities and differences between equine businesses and other businesses. In the horse world, there are still a lot of handshake deals, which can get you into trouble down the road. A legal audit is a relatively painless, proactive measure to help you as a business owner make sure that you are doing everything you can to protect your business – just like we do everything we can as horse owners to protect our horses.

For more of Kjirsten’s articles on equine law, click the #EQUINE LAW hashtag at the top of this page, or click here to open a list.

Kjirsten Lee, J.D., is an equine attorney with rb LEGAL, LLC, in Golden Valley, MN. She has written on topics such as the Horse Protection Act and use of drugs in racehorses, as well as general legal issues that horse people may encounter. You can follow her on Twitter at KMLee_Esq. Kjirsten and her OTTB, Gobain, compete in dressage and eventing.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading and/or commenting on this post. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

Equine Law: A Basic Guide to Insurance for Horse Owners

Kjirsten Lee, J.D., is an equine attorney with rb LEGAL LLC in Golden Valley, Minnesota. She has written on topics such as the Horse Protection Act and use of drugs in racehorses, as well as general legal issues that horse people may encounter. You can follow her on Twitter at KMLee_Esq. Kjirsten and her OTTB, Gobain, compete in dressage and eventing.

Photo by Steve Harwood/Flickr/Creative Commons Photo by Steve Harwood/Flickr/Creative Commons

Insurance policies are designed to protect what you own. Horse owners generally are interested in either liability insurance or some sort of medical insurance for their horse. Liability insurance can protect you if your horse causes damage or injury to someone else or their property. Medical insurance comes in many forms, and can help cover certain veterinary bills. Mortality insurance can also be available to attempt to compensate a horse owner for the loss of their horse.

Liability Insurance

We all know that there is a risk to what we do in working with horses. We can get stepped on, fall off, kicked … and we don’t bat an eye (unless the horse does something on purpose — then it’s back off, buddy). But what if your horse injures someone else – could you be at fault? Not always, but here are some examples of when you might be liable:

  • The horse has a dangerous habit, such as biting fingers that reach into his stall. The owner fails to warn of the danger, and someone who is unaware of the horse’s bad habit is bitten and injured.
    • How to prevent this: post a sign on the horse’s stall and warn everyone who steps into the barn that any horse can mistake fingers for carrots.
  • The horse owner rides or handles the horse negligently – for example, a rider is on their cell phone in the warm-up arena and runs over another horse and rider.
    • How to prevent this: leave your cell phone with someone else while you ride. No phone call, text, or Tweet is more important than the safety of you, your horse, and other competitors.

If you have not or could not take steps to prevent your horse causing injury to another person, there are inexpensive liability policies specifically for horse owners. If you decide to buy one of these policies, make sure you read it carefully so you understand what is and is not covered. Note: USEF members may already have some personal liability coverage, and have access to personal excess liability and AD&D (accidental death and dismemberment) insurance coverage at a discounted rate.

‘Medical’ Insurance

Major medical and surgical coverage is available to horse owners. These types of policies typically cover certain types of surgery and other expensive types of medical procedures. Major medical typically does not cover routine medical procedures, including expensive vaccines.

Many companies now offer insurance specifically for colic surgery, the foremost example being Smartpak’s ColiCare program. These policies and programs typically provide reimbursement for colic surgery up to a certain amount.

Mortality Insurance

Mortality insurance coverage is intended to cover instances where a horse dies and the owner is not at fault, such as catastrophic weather events. These policies will not cover instances where a horse dies as a result of negligence or willful misconduct, regardless of who was negligent.

If you have either major medical or mortality insurance on your horse — or both — make sure that everyone involved in your horse’s care knows that the horse is insured and how to contact the insurance company. Many insurance companies require pre-approval for certain procedures and all insurance policies contain a notice requirement which states how quickly you must notify the insurance company if the horse is ill or injured. Make sure you comply with these requirements!

If you have questions about your policy, talk to your insurance agent. An attorney can also be helpful if you believe your policy covers something and the insurance company disagrees. As always, if you have particular questions or concerns, contact an attorney in your area.

For more of Kjirsten’s articles on equine law, click here to open a list.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created  by reading and/or commenting on this post. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.