California governor signs anti-horse slaughter bill

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Photo of Runner, a Choctaw stallion, taken at RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary by Ondrea Hidley.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday, Oct. 12, signed into law A.B. 128, a measure intended to further protect wild and domestic horses from slaughter.

Authored by Assemblymember Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, A.B. 128 requires the operators of animal auction yard to:

–determine and post online any identifying brand, tattoo or implanted microchip an animal may have before being sold at auction

–maintain records of sales for one year and make such records available to specified officials and to post at an auction that the sale of horses in California for slaughter for human consumption is a felony.

The bill also requires a purchaser of an animal at auction to sign a sworn statement, under penalty of perjury, agreeing to comply with provisions of the penal code relating to the slaughter and sale of horses or horsemeat for human consumption.

In 1998, California voters passed Prop. 6, which made it illegal for any person to possess, transfer, receive or hold a horse (including donkey, mules and ponies) with the intent to kill it, or have it killed, where the person knows, or should have known that any part of the carcass with be used for human consumption. Prop. 6 also makes it illegal to sell horsemeat within the state for human consumption

A.B. 128 was provoked by a 2018 effort by the U.S. Forest Service to sell without restriction wild horses captured at the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory in Northern California.

Return to Freedom and other advocates sued USFS after the agency announced unprecedented plans just before the 2018 roundup to sell older wild horses captured during without protections against slaughter. That case is ongoing. In May, U.S. District Judge James Donato ordered advocates and USFS to engage in settlement talks. 

A stipulated prohibition remained in place as the suit progressed, barring the agency from selling the horses without restriction. During that time, USFS was able to adopt or sell the remaining older wild horses, which were kept in corrals at Modoc National Forest, with restrictions in place. That included a dozen horses recently moved to RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary.

In addition to Return to Freedom, other horse and animal welfare organizations that supported A.B. 128 included: sponsor American Wild Horse Campaign, San Diego Humane Society, San Francisco SPCA, Auction Horses Rescue, Hanaeleh Horse Rescue and Advocacy, Kruse Control Inc., Animal Welfare Institute, Safe Food Safe Horses, California Animal Welfare Association, Montgomery Creek Ranch, Freedom Reigns Equine Sanctuary, Marin Humane, Animal Place, The Animals Voice and Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue.