Last week's election in the District of Columbia was a triumph for ahalf dozen horses who love their work and for the woman who loves them.
Sarah Davies, owner of a carriage-horse business, adamantly defended her right to run her business in accordance with recently enacted -- and very stringent -- laws regulating working conditions for carriage horses. Voters agreed with Davies and turned back efforts by misguided animal-rights activists to ban carriage horses in the district.
The existing laws regarding work horses in the district adequately protect carriage horses by prescribing the hours and conditions under which the horses work and by setting rules for the horses' care. According to Davies, this law is fair.
"I don't know of any silly laws in Carroll County, or at least none
that we've been called on to enforce," says Carolyn "Nicky" Ratliff of the Carroll County Humane Society.
"We do enforce the laws which have to do with animal welfare -- for horses and for other animals."
The primary law the Humane Society enforces is a Maryland law which says, among other things, that any person who has custody of an animal must provide it with adequate nutritious food, necessary veterinary care, proper drink, air, space and shelter or other protection from the weather.
"We also enforce the restraint law, which stipulates that animals must be restrained on property and not allowed to roam, " Ratliff says. "Everyone should take (the Maryland) law very seriously. Penalties can be upto $1,000 or 90 days in jail."
While the district's working-horselaw and the laws enforced in Carroll are reasonable, other laws regarding horses are less so.
Readers of this column will accept it asa given that horses are truly wondrous animals. Whether in war, in sport or as pleasure mounts, the horse will always rise to the occasion and conduct itself in a noble fashion.
Unfortunately, many timesthe same cannot be said of the horse's partner -- the human being. When it comes to formulating laws and writing legislation regarding horses, it seems human folly often prevails, and humans resemble nothing so much as a horse's posterior.
For instance, if you have ever thought things are fishy in the nation's capital, this will confirm your worst fears.
Fisherman in the district are not allowed, by law,to catch fish while riding horses. Those people who fish the Potomacare expected to sit on shore or in a boat. The law does not prohibitthe horse from standing on the shore and watching the anglers, however.
In Virginia, horses older than 1 year may not attend religiousservices. Horses of any age may accompany people to the church grounds but may not enter the building during services. The only exceptions made are for foals and horses wearing halters.
If you ride your horse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., you must make
sure he is equipped with horns and taillights. Of course, the law does not provide any how-tos for installing either.
In Fountain Inn, S.C., horses must wear pants at all times. There are no stipulations about shirts and ties, but the owner of a pants-less horse can expect to be arrested.
Things don't get any better up north. In the Big Apple, horses riddenby mounted police officers have the support of their union leaders. New York law states all horses must be given a 15-minute coffee breakevery two hours.
Failure to obey this law carries stiff penalties, including fines and jail time.
Could your horse be considered ugly? Then stay away from Wilbur, Wash. Anyone caught riding an ugly horse on a public street will be in legal trouble.
You must get an official judgment on your horse's beauty from the local constabulary, because no guidelines establish standards of equine beauty.
A law in Hillsboro, Ore., prohibits horses from riding in the front seat ofa car. Presumably they are allowed in the back seat -- if you can figure out how to get them in there.
Horses are not the only equinesto, er, benefit from man-made laws. Several laws cover our friend the mule as well.
In Lang, Kan., for instance, a mule may not walk down any public street during the month of August unless he is wearinga straw hat.
And just down the road from Carroll County in Baltimore, the law insists that records be kept on our mulish friends. Any service performed by a mule in the city must be recorded.