Whether you are in the middle of breeding season or planning for the next, now is the time to take a look at your breeding practices from a legal standpoint.
There are some obvious legal issues involved in breeding horses. Well before the season gets into full swing, you need to prepare (or review) the contracts you will be using. As in many areas of horse management, it is very important to nail down all of the terms of this contract, your breeding agreement.
Whether you prepare the contract or have one sent to you to sign, a thorough understanding of the terms is essential. Some of the issues peculiar to breeding contracts are the kinds of warranties that are offered (such as live-foal guarantees), who is responsible for insuring the mare during transport and at the stud farm, and what kind of protections are utilized against injury and the spread of contagious disease.
There are more legal issues to consider beyond the basic breeding agreement. Other contracts may be necessary. For example, if mares are coming to your farm (or you are sending a mare out), you should think about boarding contracts (mare care) and liability releases. If you own a stallion being stood at another farm, you should also have a stallion management contract or lease agreement.
You might think about insurance with respect to limiting liability or satisfying contractual requirements. Stallion-owners, stud farms, and mare-owners should look into the kind of insurance available for horses. The types typically offered which are relevant to horse breeding include the following: Care, Custody and Control (for horses on your property that you do not own); Mortality and Surgical (for your own horses); and Stallion Fertility Insurance.
Practice thinking about eventualities and worst-case scenarios to spot all of the areas in which legal issues can crop up.
For example, as a stallion owner, you may have been advertising your stallions for months already. Save yourself some aggravation and a lot of money--if you have any doubt about the horse's fertility, have it checked by a qualified veterinarian. It is a good idea to do this before each season officially starts and possibly at several times during the season.
Sure, it is an extra expense.... But, before you decide against it, imagine this scenario: Your advertising pans out and your horse's book is full. By March you are welcoming mares at your farm. By the end of the season, none are settled. Do you really want to try to convince a lot of angry mare-owners that, in exchange for the thousands of dollars they put into booking fees, transportation, mare care, and veterinary expenses, they have only the right to try again NEXT YEAR? You may as well get ready for the lawsuits involving false advertising, fraud, and breach of contract. And just wait for the negative publicity campaign…You'd best take a deep breath and get your checkbook out now.
Whether you own mares or stallions, before you sign anything or make any commitments, think about getting some professional advice. There are attorneys practicing equine law in most states. You may also want to talk to an accountant with equine expertise about tax and business planning issues related to horse breeding. Insurance agents can give you the run-down on the kinds of policies available, if you opt to get insurance coverage.
The following checklists may help you to get started in thinking about your legal position and exposure. Remember that these lists are NOT exhaustive, but are only intended as a starting point.
NOTE: This article is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. For specific information or advice on how the laws affect you, you should contact an attorney qualified to advise you in this area.