The Kentucky House of Representatives unanimously passed Senate Bill 139, which would amend the definition of livestock in Kentucky to include horses and equines, according to a news release from the Kentucky Equine Education Project.

The bill now moves to Gov. Matt Bevin for his signature.

Securing livestock classification has been among the top policy priorities of the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) since its 2004 creation.

“SB 139 is an important step forward for the Kentucky horse industry, and legislative success like this is a product of years of commitment and hard work,” says KEEP Chairman Corey Johnsen. “Many KEEP members have been instrumental in getting this legislation to this point, but we owe particular recognition to Frank Penn for being a tireless leader and advocate on this issue from the start.”

Sen. Robin Webb  sponsored the bill, a measure she’s worked on for several years.

“The continued and consistent designation of equine as livestock is imperative for the ownership and utilization of the animals that we have relied on for centuries,” Webb says. “The equine industry contributes to the quality of life for Kentuckians and the economic bottom line of the Commonwealth.”

SB 139 does not address the state’s 6% sales tax on feed, bedding and equipment used for horses. All other livestock are exempt for sales tax on those necessities. However, passage of the bill does strengthen the case for tax equity.

Rep. Susan Westrom says the measure is a major step toward putting horses on equal footing with other livestock.

“I am pleased to know that my colleagues finally understand that the equine industry in their own backyard was never treated ‘business friendly’ by the state,” Westrom says.

Despite the claims of some critics, Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne says the action does not promote horse slaughter.

“[D]espite some confusion, this bill in no way opens the door for horse slaughter in Kentucky, or weakens horse protection laws,” he says. “In fact, on this same day, the Legislature gave final passage to House Bill 200 to make it easier for local officials to intervene and remove horses in abuse and neglect cases. These bills combined will greatly benefit the entire equine industry in Kentucky, and help to solidify our global role as the Horse Capital of the World.”

The bill does not supercede federal law such as the Horse Protection Act. A USDA spokeswoman confirmed in an email to the Louisville Courier-Journal that the department already considers horses, mules and other equines as livestock, which are covered under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. The provision prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for inspections of horses intended to be killed for human consumption.

Rep. Richard Heath, head of the House Agriculture Committee, says SB 139 makes an overdue correction.

“As chair of the House Agriculture Committee, I am pleased to lend a hand to the equine industry in Kentucky and vote to classify horses as livestock, which brings long-overdue fairness and equity,” he says. “I am proud to support every type of farm in Kentucky, whether it be a family farm, a dairy farm, a crop farm, or a horse farm. Today we finally righted a wrong: Horses belong in the livestock classification where they are overseen by the Department of Agriculture, and not in the companion animal or pet classification.”