Tennessee State Laws That Affect Horse Welfare


Tennessee State Laws That Affect Horse Welfare

 

In the state of Tennessee horses are considered livestock and do not have the same rights as companion animals and are excluded from some animal welfare laws. Below you’ll find the laws and how these laws affect horses who are in cruelty/neglect situations.

The definition for livestock is interesting because typically livestock refers to cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and other animals consumed for human consumption, but in Tennessee the law starts out by defining livestock as all equines and then goes into other animals.

  • Definitions for animal offenses; TENN. CODE ANN. § 39-14-201.
    • (1)  “Animal” means a domesticated living creature or a wild creature previously captured;
    • (2)  “Livestock” means all equine as well as animals which are being raised primarily for use as food or fiber for human utilization or consumption including, but not limited to, cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and poultry;
    • (3)  “Non-livestock animal” means a pet normally maintained in or near the household or households of its owner or owners, other domesticated animal, previously captured wildlife, an exotic animal, or any other pet, including but not limited to, pet rabbits, a pet chick, duck, or pot bellied pig that is not classified as “livestock” pursuant to this part;
    • (4) “Torture” means every act, omission, or neglect whereby unreasonable physical pain, suffering, or death is caused or permitted, but nothing herein shall be construed as prohibiting the shooting of birds or game for the purpose of human food or the use of animate targets by incorporated gun clubs.

There is a law regarding Societies for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and it gives a lot of freedom to Humane Societies for non-livestock animals who are in critical situations but it is interpreted that it is only companion animals situations. You could take a situation where there is a horse that is suffering and cannot be humanely rehabbed. The horse is suffering and it is in the best interest of the horse to be humanely euthanized to end its chronic pain. However due to the wording and phrases in the law it can be interpreted that because it is a livestock animal it cannot be dispatched. If it was a dog or a cat or other companion animal the law states. (c) Any agent or officer of such society may lawfully destroy, or cause to be destroyed, any animal found abandoned or otherwise: (1) Which is not properly cared for, appearing, in the judgment of two (2) reputable citizens, who are experts, called to view the same in the agent’s or officer’s presence, to be glandered, injured or diseased past humane recovery; The law does say any animal but in section (a) of this law that says: regard to non-livestock animals. Horse Plus Humane Society has been in court cases where this point has been argued that horses and non-livestock animals have different rights.

  • Societies for prevention of cruelty to animals: TENN. CODE ANN. § 39-14-210
    • (a) The agents of any society which is incorporated for the prevention of cruelty to animals, upon being appointed thereto by the president of such society in any county, may, within such county, make arrests, and bring before any court thereof offenders found violating the provisions of this part with regard to non-livestock animals.
    • (b) Any officers, agents, or members of such society may lawfully interfere to prevent the perpetration of any act of cruelty upon any animal in such person’s presence. Any person who interferes with or obstructs any such officer, agent, or member in the discharge of this duty commits a Class C misdemeanor.
    • (c) Any agent or officer of such society may lawfully destroy, or cause to be destroyed, any animal found abandoned or otherwise:
    • (1) Which is not properly cared for, appearing, in the judgment of two (2) reputable citizens, who are experts, called to view the same in the agent’s or officer’s presence, to be glandered, injured or diseased past humane recovery;


Tennessee does have a “Cruelty to Animals” law which horses do fall under but it becomes a gray area with law enforcement because of the definition of animals, livestock and non-livestock animals. This law does address the practice of soring horses.

  • Cruelty to animals; TENN. CODE ANN. § 39-14-202
    • (a) A person commits an offense who intentionally or knowingly:
      (1) Tortures, maims or grossly overworks an animal;
      (2) Fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody;
      (3) Abandons unreasonably an animal in the person’s custody;
      (4) Transports or confines an animal in a cruel manner; or
      (5) Inflicts burns, cuts, lacerations, or other injuries or pain, by any method, including blistering compounds, to the legs or hooves of horses in order to make them sore for any purpose including, but not limited to, competition in horse shows and similar events.
    • (3) An offense under subdivision (f)(2) is a Class B misdemeanor.
    • (g) (1) Cruelty to animals is a Class A misdemeanor.
      (2) A second or subsequent conviction for cruelty to animals is a Class E felony.
      (3) Violation of any prohibition or restriction imposed by the sentencing court pursuant to subdivision (e) is a Class A misdemeanor.

The state of Tennessee has a “aggravated cruelty to animals” law that specifically is designed for companion animals and has language that excludes equines in the law. This is frankly quite ridiculous because horses are animals and the same law should protect them. But they fall under a separate law that is called “aggravated cruelty to livestock animals.”  The aggravated cruelty to animals law addresses depriving a companion animal of food and water but the “aggravated cruelty to livestock animals” does not address depriving a livestock animal of food and water.

 

  • Aggravated cruelty to animals; TENN. CODE ANN. § 39-14-212
    (a) A person commits aggravated cruelty to animals when, with aggravated cruelty and with no justifiable purpose, such person intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to a companion animal.
    (b) For purposes of this section:
    (1) “Aggravated cruelty” means conduct which is done or carried out in a depraved and sadistic manner and which tortures or maims an animal including the failure to provide food and water to a companion animal resulting in a substantial risk of death or death;
    (2) “Companion animal” means any non-livestock animal as defined in § 39-14-201(3);
    (3) “Elderly” means any person sixty-five (65) years of age or older; and
    (4) “Minor” means any person under eighteen (18) years of age.
    (c) The provisions of subsection (a) shall not be construed to prohibit or interfere with the following endeavors:
    (1) The provisions of this section shall not be construed to change, modify, or amend any provision of title 70, involving fish and wildlife;
    (2) The provisions of this section do not apply to activities or conduct that are prohibited by § 39-14-203;
    (3) The provisions of this section do not apply to equine animals or to animals defined as
    livestock by the provisions of § 39-14-201;
    (4) Dispatching an animal in any manner absent of aggravated cruelty;
    (5) Engaging in lawful hunting, trapping, or fishing activities, including activities commonly associated with the hunting of small game as defined in § 70-1-101(a)(34);
    (6) Dispatching rabid or diseased animals;
    (7) Dispatching animals posing a clear and immediate threat to human safety;
    (8) Performing or conducting bona fide scientific tests, experiments or investigations within or for a bona fide research laboratory, facility or institution;
    (9) Performing accepted veterinary medical practices or treatments;
    (10) Dispatching animals in accordance with § 44-17-403(e);
    (11) Engaging, with the consent of the owner of a farm animal, in usual and customary practices which are accepted by colleges of agriculture or veterinary medicine with respect to such animal;
    (12) Dispatching wild or abandoned animals on a farm or residential real property; or
    (13) Applying methods and equipment used to train animals.
    (d) Aggravated cruelty to animals is a Class E felony.
    (e) In addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (d), the sentencing court may order the defendant to surrender custody and forfeit all companion animals as defined in subdivision
    (b)(2), and may award custody of such animals to the agency presenting the case. The court may prohibit the defendant from having custody of other animals for any period of time the court determines to be reasonable, or impose any other reasonable restrictions on the person’s custody of animals as is necessary for the protection of the animals.
    (f) In addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (d), the court may require the defendant to undergo psychological evaluation and counseling, the cost to be borne by the defendant. If the defendant is indigent, the court may, where practicable, direct the defendant to locate and enroll in a counseling or treatment program with an appropriate agency.
    (g) If a defendant convicted of a violation of this section resides in a household with minor children or elderly individuals, the court may, within fifteen (15) days, send notification of the conviction to the appropriate protective agencies.
    (h) In addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (d), the defendant may be held liable to the impounding officer or agency for all costs of impoundment from the time of seizure to the time of proper disposition of the case.
    (i) (1) In addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (d), the defendant may be held liable to the owner of the animal for damages.
    (2) If an unlawful act resulted in the death or permanent disability of a person’s guide
    dog, then the value of the guide dog shall include, but shall not necessarily be limited to,
    both the cost of the guide dog as well as the cost of any specialized training the guide dog received.
    (j) If a juvenile is found to be within the court’s jurisdiction, for conduct that, if committed by an adult, would be a criminal violation involving cruelty to animals or would be a criminal violation involving arson, then the court may order that the juvenile be evaluated to determine the need for psychiatric or psychological treatment. If the court determines that psychiatric or psychological treatment is appropriate for that juvenile, then the court may order that treatment.
    (k) This section does not preclude the court from entering any other order of disposition allowed under this chapter.

 

 

The state of Tennessee has a separate law regarding “Aggravated Cruelty to Livestock Animals” which horses fall under due to the wording of the law in Tennessee. In this law it reiterates that livestock refers to all equines. Unlike the aggravated cruelty to animal law it does not address livestock animals without food and water. The way this law is written it can be very confusing to law enforcement because if they read the first aggravated cruelty to animals law it excludes horses and other livestock from the law. Animals are animals and they all deserve the same rights.

  • Aggravated Cruelty to Livestock Animal; TENN. CODE ANN. § 39-14-217
    • (a) As used in this section only, “livestock” means all equine as well as animals which are being raised primarily for use as food or fiber for human utilization or consumption including, but not limited to, cattle, sheep, swine, and goats.
    • (b) Except as provided in subsections (d) and (e), a person commits aggravated cruelty to a livestock animal who, in a depraved and sadistic manner, intentionally engages in any of the conduct described in subdivisions (c)(1) – (12), the conduct results in serious bodily injury to the animal or the death of the animal, and is without justifiable or lawful purpose.
    • (c) The following conduct constitutes aggravated cruelty to livestock animals if accomplished in
      the manner described in subsection (b):
      (1) Setting an animal on fire;
      (2) Burning an animal with any hot object;
      (3) Cutting or stabbing an animal with any object;
      (4) Causing blunt force trauma to an animal;
      (5) Securing an animal to a vehicle and dragging it;
      (6) Blinding an animal;
      (7) Applying acid or other caustic substance or chemical to any exposed area of an animal or forcing the animal to ingest the substance;
      (8) Hanging a living animal;
      (9) Skinning an animal while it is still alive;
      (10) Administering electric shock to an animal;
      (11) Drowning an animal; or
      (12) Shooting an animal with a weapon.
    • (d) Subsections (b) and (c) shall not be construed to apply to, prohibit or interfere with the following:
      (1) Any provision of Title 70, involving fish and wildlife, or any hunting, trapping, or fishing activities lawful under such title;
      (2) Activities or conduct that are prohibited by Section 39-14-203; or
      (3) Dispatching an animal in any manner not prohibited by this section.
    • (e) The following shall not be construed as aggravated cruelty to a livestock animal as defined in this section:
      (1) Dispatching rabid, diseased, sick or injured livestock animals;
      (2) Dispatching livestock animals posing a clear and immediate threat to human safety;
      (3) Performing or conducting bona fide scientific tests, experiments or investigations within or for a bona fide research laboratory, facility or institution;
      (4) Performing accepted veterinary medical practices or treatments;
      (5) Engaging, with the consent of the owner of a livestock animal, in usual and customary practices which are accepted by colleges of agriculture or veterinary medicine with respect to that animal;
      (6) Dispatching wild or abandoned livestock animals on a farm or residential real
      property; or
      (7) Applying methods and equipment used to train livestock animals.
    • (f) In addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (j), the defendant may be held liable to:
      (1) The owner of the livestock animal for damages; and
      (2) The impounding officer or agency for all costs of impoundment from the time of seizure to the time of proper disposition of the case.
    • (g) In addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (j), the sentencing court may order the defendant to surrender custody and forfeit all livestock animals, and may award custody of the animals to the agency presenting the case. The court may prohibit the defendant from having custody of other livestock animals for any period of time the court determines to be reasonable, or impose any other reasonable restrictions on the person’s custody of livestock animals as is
      necessary for the protection of the animals.
    • (h) In addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (j), the court may require the defendant to undergo psychological evaluation and counseling, the cost to be borne by the defendant. If the defendant is indigent, the court may, where practicable, direct the defendant to locate and enroll in a counseling or treatment program with an appropriate agency.
    • (i) This section does not preclude the court from entering any other order of disposition allowed under this chapter.
    • (j) Aggravated cruelty to a livestock animal is a Class E felony.

In some cases people have asked Horse Plus Humane Society why don’t they just go and take the horse(s) that is clearly suffering and being neglected/abused and not worry about what the law says regarding livestock and non-livestock animals. In the state of Tennessee there are Grand Theft laws which the average neglected horse would fall under a Class E Felony and may even be taken up to a Class D Felony if the owner of the animal can prove the value of the animal is greater than $1,000.

  • Grading of theft; TENN. CODE ANN. § 39-14-105
    • (a) Theft of property or services is:
      (1) A Class A Misdemeanor if the value of the property or services obtained is five hundred dollars ($ 500) or less;
      (2) A Class E Felony if the value of the property or services obtained is more than five hundred dollars ($ 500) but less than one thousand dollars ($ 1,000);
      (3) A Class D Felony if the value of the property or services obtained is one thousand dollars ($ 1,000) or more but less than ten thousand dollars ($ 10,000);

In the state of Tennessee if someone makes a report about a neglected animal there is no imposed duty to investigate the report, even if the animal abuse is known or suspected. This results in citizens being extremely frustrated and calling the law enforcement multiple times trying to get help for an animal that is suffering. Even though law enforcement may receive the reports it is up to them if they feel like investigating them or not.

  • Report forms; TENN. CODE ANN. § 38-1-403
    • (a) Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose a duty to investigate known or reasonably suspected animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect.

What can be done to change these antiquated animal laws. It is going to take the citizens of Tennessee banning together to change these laws and also supporting Tennessee based Animal Welfare organizations. By supporting Tennessee based Animal Welfare organizations it will allow more resources for the organization so they can develop law enforcement assistance programs so that law enforcement can count on the animal welfare organizations to help them in animal related situations. Tennessee is, to some people, considered to be almost a third world country for animals, there are many world counties that have absolutely no animal services and when asked what to do about a stray animal they are told to shoot the animal and dispose of it. This is the result of not having municipal animal shelters, a lack of resources and education.

The horse related welfare issues in Tennessee are extremely large.  If a stray horse comes on your property law enforcement has no indication of what they procedure should be as far as holding the animal for a certain time. Because of the way the law is written it only addresses to hold times for non-livestock animals so law enforcement agencies make up their own rules along the way. Horse Plus Humane Society has assisted law enforcement throughout Tennessee and hear a different story from each of them. The reason is there is no set law or clear guidelines for law enforcement to follow and regarding horse related issues of abandonment, neglect or abuse.

Horse Plus Humane Society feels that the way the law addresses equines as the first animal in the livestock law this may have been put in place by people trying to protect the Big Lick horse industry by making more loopholes for horse abuse to continue in Tennessee and make it easier for soaring to happen by the Big Lick horse industry.

It’s time for change – All animals deserve the same rights!