HORSE-OWNER RESPONSIBILITY: THE CENTENNIAL FARMS EXAMPLE

A Thoroughbred owner can choose to view a horse as a tangible asset to be employed in breeding or racing.  In this bottom-line philosophy of doing business, the animal is just another balance-sheet item to be gradually depreciated on the books and then sold for salvage value.

An alternative perspective holds that a Thoroughbred is a noble flesh-and-blood creature capable of providing its owner with monetary and psychological rewards.  Under this concept, horses that cannot compete on the racetrack or succeed as breeding stock are not to be cast aside as scrap, but rather are to be provided for in a humane way.

The business of dog breeding and sales in the United States vividly illustrates these competing points of view.  On the one hand are puppy mills that sell privately or through pet shops and who tend to see dogs as products.  By stark contrast, responsible breeders temper their monetary goal of turning a profit with a deep and abiding lifetime concern for the welfare of their animals.  Conscientious breeders will almost always take back any dog they have bred and sold, even years later, though they do not refund the purchase price.  If the breeder cannot accept the dog, foster care is arranged until a good home can be found.

From a purely legal standpoint, a horse owner’s obligation to care for the animal ends once a sale takes place and the horse is transferred to new ownership, through a private transaction, at auction, or via a claim.  Yet some owners do not view their sense of duty to the horse as terminating with a sale and act similarly to responsible dog breeders.

Centennial Farms, an exemplary example, attaches a sticker to the registration papers of the horses acquired by its partnerships noting that the horses are not to go to slaughter and including a toll-free number to call.  Further, Centennial Farms horses are tracked throughout their careers and Centennial plays an active role in finding retirement homes; many are placed with members of the management team and partners.

Whereas it is naïve and unrealistic to believe that even most owners could or would accept lifetime responsibility for their animals, it is eminently practical to develop and promote facilitators, such as the Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Connect, for those owners who do indeed seek good homes for their retired horses and need assistance in locating people looking to adopt.

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