Critical Documents While Traveling with Horses

It seems ownership documentation/legal transport is a hot button topic!

horse-papersFirst of all-get the brand inspector numbers in your area and don’t put them on a wee piece of paper like I did. (I’m such a NAG!) Many of us are involved in activities involving transport-so it is just handy to have those numbers at hand. Vet offices, law enforcement and sale barns should have those contacts for you, and I learned-so do County Clerk offices and any given state’s “Agricultural Website.”

Now on to the information that had me a bit in panic mode a few weeks ago!

1) If you haul your horses (donkey’s, mules, cattle) 75 or more miles from home (in or out of state-doesn’t matter).  You have to have an up to date “brand inspection.” With you! In the Truck/trailer where you can find it and it isn’t covered in horse cookie goo. If you think about it-this radius impacts most trailering to trail heads!

2) If you buy or sell a horse (donkey, mule or cow), you must either have a valid registration transfer and/or-have your local brand inspector there to give you the legal paperwork so that your claim to ownership or sale is actually valid. This will provide you with a VALID bill of sale, from which you can proceed with a transport permit.

3) You may alternatively obtain a “permanent” transport/ownership card (I just paid 25/head with a three dollar “Horse Fee”/head and a one time 15 dollar inspection fee-Colorado)-which allows you to haul your horse anywhere in the U.S. for the life of your ownership of that horse-provided of course-that health inspections etc. are up to date for any given trip.

4) If you do not obtain the permanent transport/ownership card-you will need to renew your transport paperwork every year through your state’s brand inspector.

5) You still are expected to renew your veterinary requirements before any out of state, show, and clinic attendance on the cyclically required yearly basis. Health certificates are state by state-most require that they be obtained less than a week before transport.  These are separate from a legal documentation for ownership and valid right to transport-which was MY original confusion. (A caveat here-make your veterinary appointments in a timely fashion to gel with the needs of your departure plans and be aware that New Mexico-for instance-will not let you in-no matter what-if there is a vesicular stomatitis outbreak in your state of origin.)

IMG_0032Now-you may ask; how can I have hauled horses all over for decades without knowing this? Well-I always did get the vet stuff done and thought I was “done” and nobody ever made me the wiser, including the vets! (They probably thought I knew what I was doing…silly things!)

Also-a “hand-written” bill of sale is no longer a legal document -you have to have the brand inspector in on the deal-so to speak. So-all of us who have taken horses off the hands of our friends with the wave of a check, a pump of the hands, or the slap of some cash? Doesn’t count folks!…

If you buy a critter through the sale barn-you are ok to continue on with the rest of the paperwork- for a transport permit…the sale’s slip or receipt is considered a valid bill of sale.

While this all may sound tedious-The fee’s are not over the top-especially for a permanent transport card (If you are like us-we keep horses till the day they die-so the 27 bucks for a probable 20 or more years is a good deal!). In the end-this protects you-as there is a state record of your ownership-along with a description of your steed on hand-should someone dare take your little hay burner off your hands in a way you didn’t plan on, the law will already be on YOUR side-and-you can begin an “amber alert” through the folks that are already in position to help you-within a day.

If you too-were naïve-and want to correct the issue-you might be able to get together with other folks and have the brand inspector do several critters at once, thereby splitting the “inspection” dollar portion of the fee. On the other hand-brand inspectors may have to do the inspection on some given property where the animal is either being bought, sold or lives-so don’t take my word on this.

If you are laughing at me-well-you are in good company! I’m giggling myself. But if you are now fully edjumucated as well-WHEW! You may have saved yourself a fine…which I hear can be substantial….amongst other things….like having to turn around and go back home!

Consider Real Time Equine for safe, secure online storage of ALL your important horse documents, easily retrieved while on the road!
Consider Real Time Equine for safe, secure online storage of ALL your important horse documents, easily retrieved while on the road!

Some of the questions or clarifications brought on by the initial email blitz:
Hand written bills of sale: Most law enforcement and brand inspection folks have a knowledge of the local people and a modicum of common sense etc etc…this works in your favor-BUT-again-keep in mind-it is still not a legal document and if you are getting a horse from a situation that is difficult to trace and/or out of your home base-so to speak-you would be really prudent to involve the brand inspector from that location before you put the animal in your trailer. Nightmare stories did follow-so buyer/seller beware.

Registration papers? Nope-my understanding is that while they do provide “evidence of ownership”-you are still required to have the brand inspector documentation for legal transport.

Again-if you sell or purchase a registered animal-the registration papers are still not a bill of sale-just proof of ownership…a confusing caveat for sure-but still a distinction in the eyes of the law. It may also get confusing if you have a registered animal with you-but not the owner…does that help?

Transport of critters-especially during hunting season-and right now when cattle in particular are quite valuable (and “rustlers” may be using horses to round them up)-All law enforcement are on double alert and may be more likely to stop you in your forays about the planet. 2015 will see a rise in the cost of this “service” (requirement really)-so with budget in mind-it will behoove you to get it done!

If you are transporting for someone else-you legally-should have the transport permit for that animal and your own with you, even to the trail head…

Modern life is complicated! Good thing we can all still ride eh?

C.B. of Colorado, a friend of ACTHA
The information contained in this article is for information purposes only.  It is being shared by ACTHA as a public service message and has not been fully verified by ACTHA.  Please contact officials in your state to verify application of the above information in your area as regulations may vary from state to state.

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