Maryland Horse Industry Board
MHIB continues to track down stables operating without licenses.
All stable licenses expire on June 30.
by J. Robert Burk
Is the facility you operate, board, or ride at licensed? You can find out by visiting the Maryland Horse Industry Board. All licenses are set to expire on June 30 unless renewed through the Maryland Horse Industry Board. By now most Maryland horse stable operators understand that a stable license is required to operate. In fact since the late 1960’s the Maryland legislature has required that facilities operating as equine boarding, rental, instructional, and sales facilities be licensed by the Maryland Department of Agriculture through the Maryland Horse Industry Board (formerly the State Board of Inspection of Horse Riding Stables). As of 2008 rescue stables will now need a license as well.
Thanks to a law that passed in the previous several years and new legal decisions the MHIB has the statutory ability to fine illegally operating facilities. The Office of the Attorney General, and the Department
of Legislative Services, both ruled that the MHIB has the authority to pursue operations without licenses that are in need of them. Not to mention, in 2004 House Bill 95 passed through the legislature thereby allowing the Board to fine illegally operating facilities up to $2,000 for each offense.
How does licensing work?
The application process has always been quite simple. Facility operators are required to maintain a minimum level of care for the animals and the facility.
Every year if the facility remains in operation a stable license from must be filled out, and a yearly fee of $75 dollars is collected for licensing and inspection. The inspectors, Beverly Raymond and Pegeen Morgan, have had years of experience with equine operations and are knowledgeable, highly trained individuals who approach every situation with the farm owners/operators, the animals, and the clients interests at heart. In fact many life long friendships have been developed between our inspectors and the facility operators.
Why are stable licenses required?
In the late 1960’s the question was posed to those involved in the Maryland legislature as to how horse riders, and owners would be assured of their safety and horses were assured of humane treatment within horse facilities in the State of Maryland. The answer, in 1975 came when the first stable license was issued to a farm in Millersville (Anne Arundel County). The first stable license was issued as HR 1, and as of 2006 the latest license issued was designated HR 1235 to a stable in Lineboro, Maryland. Each stable holds onto the original designation until such time as it no longer exists as an equine facility.
Insurance and Legal Risk
If you operate a facility without a license and you are ever taken to court the first thing the lawyer for the other party will look at, is if you operated without a license. Moreover, if you apply for insurance one of the first things a company may check is whether you are operating legally. It is becoming common for the MHIB to receive calls from insurance providers and lawyers requesting information on the status of a certain facilities license. Because it is public information we release that information. Often times the MHIB has no records related to the stables in question. For insurance purposes this could mean that if you ever tried to place a claim for a stable related insurance loss you could be denied for not living up to your end of the contract (operating legally). In a court case if your opponent can show that you have already violated the law by operating illegally your case will be that much harder to win.
Common Excuses for Not Licensing
At the Maryland Horse Industry Board our inspectors have heard all of the excuses you could imagine.
Some of our favorites include:
I didn’t know about licensing.
MDA Response: Ignorance of the law is no defense. In most cases if you comply with licensing without being investigated you will not be investigated. If your facility is found through an investigation then you may face criminal or civil penalties.
We are a private facility.
MDA Response: If you accept payment for any of the services listed in the next section, for the purposes of this law, you are not private but in fact a commercial equine business that is required by law to be license. You may not be “open to the general public,” and you may only take clients by referral (which is how most “private” facilities define themselves), but you are still required to be licensed because the law does not discriminate between the two – even though you might!
We train, breed, or rescue horses we don’t board or rent them.
MDA Response: If you house 5 or more horses for any period of time that are not your own and receive compensation for any services, or if you receive compensation for the use of even one horse (for any reason), or if you sell 5 or more horses either from your facility or at an auction you need a license. Moreover, as of 2007 any facility which transfers 5 or more horses to their facility and represents itself to the public as a horse rescue, horse sanctuary, or retirement center a license is needed.
We don’t have horses, we only have ponies.
MDA Response: Horses are defined in the law as horses or ponies.
We own such a nice facility we don’t need to be inspected.
MDA Response: Regardless of how nice your facility is it still needs a license, and how bad will your “nice” facility look if you are brought up on charges for operating illegally.
I am scared of licensing.
MDA Response: Licensing is not a scary process. Once you have been through it you realize just how simple it is. Over 97% of the facilities inspected meet the minimum requirements of the State. It might have been scary for you to take your driver’s license test, but you still have to do it by law in order to operate a vehicle on Maryland roads. The same can be said for licensing. Moreover, if you receive a civil penalty bill that is more than 6 times the cost of a stable license (for the first violation, subsequent violations may cost as much as 26 times the cost of a license), then you will begin to regret not facing your fear.
We don’t make any money at this, it is a hobby, or we are a non-profit/notfor- profit entity.
MDA Response: Your operation may not be profitable but it still may fall within the law requiring a license.
For the past several years the MHIB has kept a database of facilities that are suspected of operating without a license. During that time, the MHIB has gathered evidence in order to pursue said facilities. If you think your facility is one of those facilities you have until June 30th to submit a license for the next Fiscal year. If you have been notified
prior to this article then your facility may already be about to receive a penalty, so license now, it only costs $75! Flagrant violators may face criminal penalties which include fines or imprisonment.
Over 99% of the complaints the MHIB receives are regarding a select few facilities that are operating without a license. As a boarder, or rider you are entering into a dangerous situation by becoming involved with illegally operating facilities. Not only dangerous for yourself or your child, but also for your horse. The next time you visit your facility ask the operator to show you a copy of their stable license. They are required by law to post it in a place viewable by the public. If they don’t have one, ask why. If you wonder whether they are currently licensed visit the MHIB website at www. mda.state.md.us/horseboard/ for a complete list of licensed facilities, or call 410-841-5861.
Who must apply for licensing?
Those who are subject to licensing
fall under any of the following four
• Boarding class, for establishments that stable five or more horses and receive compensation for the services;
• Sales class, for establishments that sell five or more horses a year;
• Rental class, for establishments that let for hire one or more horses to be ridden or driven and for which instruction is not given;
• Instruction class, for establishments that let for hire one or more horses to be ridden or driven and for which instruction is given;
• Rescue class, for any facility which transfers 5 or more horses to their facility and represents itself to the public as a horse rescue, horse sanctuary, or retirement center.
Facilities exempt from licensing include:
Horse racing and Standardbred
For purposes of this regulation,“ horse racing and Standardbred stables” means stables or farms where horses are bred, trained, and rested, for the purposes relating to either or both of the following types of racing:
(a) The racing of Thoroughbreds, whether it be on a flat course or over hurdles; and
(b) The racing of Standardbreds, whether they be trotters or pacers.
* Operators of these facilities are subject to any licensing requirements set by the Maryland Racing Commission.
If farms are using horses for agricultural purposes and not for any of the activities listed above.
For purposes of this section, “agricultural
purposes” includes the following uses:
(a) Working or cultivating the soil; and
(b) Herding or cutting livestock.
Benefits of Licensing
As a licensed stable owner in the State of Maryland you are able to receive all of the privileges afforded to them including representation, remuneration, and inclusion in industry related activities. In fact licensed Stable Owners are represented on the Maryland Horse Industry Board and currently that position is held by Carol Wicker of Fence Post Farm, in Pasadena (Anne Arundel). Your facility will be included in promotional campaigns such as the listing of licensed stables, and if your organization is recognized as non-profit or notfor-profit entities, or involved with one (such as 4-H, Pony Club, etc.) you are eligible for grant money distributed by the Maryland Horse Industry Board. Additionally, by being licensed your facility avoids being found guilty of operating illegally in the state, thereby facing fines and possible imprisonment, and is able to represent itself to the public as a reputable facility which cares about the care and welfare of the animals and the members of the entire horse industry.
In January of 1998 the Maryland Horse Council created legislation for the formation of a Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB) to work with the Department of Agriculture, to function as a commodity board for the development of the industry. In April of 1998, the legislation was passed into law. The purpose of the MHIB is to help develop and promote the State’s horse industry. In 2002 we published an article explaining what a horse industry board can and can not do.