Working Animal Protection Act (WAPA) bills have been filed in five states so far for the spring 2019 legislative session. WAPA bills aim to protect legitimate and legal businesses utilizing working animals for purposes including transportation, ranching, service, education, entertainment and exhibition. The bills are in response to the patchwork of local bans of certain activities involving animals that have begun to appear across the U.S.
Horse-drawn carriages have already been banned from thirteen U.S cities; and ban proposals are pending in seven more cities. The enacted bans are ostensibly for the benefit of the animals, but those businesses involved with working animals (such as circuses and horse-drawn carriage rides) are already licensed, inspected and highly regulated for the protection of the animals.
WAPA bills allow regulation of businesses involving animals at the state level, in lieu of local bans in a concerted effort to avoid loss of 1) the homes for the animals who earn their keep; 2) the economic benefit derived from the business; and 3) opportunities for the public to view, interact with and learn about animals they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. They strike an appropriate regulatory compromise between the need for regulation of the animal owners’ use of an animal and the animal’s welfare.
In Texas, WAPA bill HB 135 has been filed. The bill says that “A county or municipality may not adopt or enforce a charter provision, ordinance, order or other regulation that prohibits, directly or indirectly, the use of an animal for the purpose of performing a specific duty for a business, including entertainment, transportation, education or exhibition.” WAPA bill HB 379 was filed in Montana, WAPA bill SB 200 was filed in Kentucky, WAPA bill HB 880 was filed in Maryland and in Missouri, HB 559 was filed. The Missouri bill is a second effort, after submission of a similar bill in 2018. WAPA bills which may have slightly different language are expected to be filed in additional states this year.
Thoughtful horse owners should be aware of the spread of the movement to ban horse-related activities. Although horse-drawn carriage businesses and owners of carriage horses are currently targeted, there is no safety net against future attacks and prohibition of the recreational activities/sports that we enjoy with our equine partners like eventing, mounted shooting, polo and jumping, should the horse-drawn carriage ban movement succeed.
Two more states recently filed WAPA bills Maryland and Kentucky