State Rep. Fitz Steele, who sponsored legislation earlier this year calling for a study of abandoned and free-roaming horses, will serve as co-chair of the task force his resolution created, House Speaker Greg Stumbo announced today.
“It is unfortunate that we have seen a steady rise in the number of problems tied to these horses, especially in the eastern part of the state,” Speaker Stumbo said. “This matter deserves closer review so we can find better ways to better manage this population. Rep. Steele has been at the forefront when it comes to looking for solutions, and as chair of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, he is the right choice to help lead this task force.”
“There have been a lot of tragic stories about abandoned and malnourished horses, many of which have suffered because their owners could no longer afford to take care of them,” said Rep. Steele of Hazard. “At the same time, there have also been a lot of reports of these horses being illegally released into the wild and joining others that are free-roaming. As the number of these animals has grown, they have become a public nuisance and even a danger in some cases, and they’re destroying such things as vegetation on reclaimed mine lands, which are having to be re-planted.”
The Abandoned and Free-roaming Horse Task Force consists of 17 members. In addition to six legislators and a county judge/executive, others to serve include representatives from:
· The Kentucky Horse Park
· The Department of Fish and Wildlife
· The Department of Agriculture
· The Kentucky Coal Association
· The state veterinarian’s office
· The Appalachian Wildlife Federation
· The Tourism, Arts & Heritage Cabinet
· The Kentucky Horse Council;
· Mine reclamation experts; and
· Shelters for abandoned horses
The task force will meet at least three times this year and is scheduled to report its findings and proposed recommendations by the end of November. If more research is needed, House and Senate leaders will have the authority to extend the timeline.
“I’m looking forward to finalizing the members of the task force and setting our first meeting date,” Rep. Steele said. “I’m confident with this group that we will be able to come up with some good ideas on how to tackle this issue.”