south carolina horse sales

A proposed South Carolina bill, developed in the wake of a rash of stolen horse reports, aims to prevent the sale of stolen horses to unwitting buyers.

Introduced in December 2018 by State Senator Paul Campbell, chairman of the state Senate’s Agriculture and Natural Resources committee, the legislation would amend the state’s statute governing the identification of animals sold at auction or otherwise to require sellers to consult with local law enforcement, rescue organizations, stolen horse organizations, and breed associations to determine whether a horse was stolen before its latest sale. The bill also requires sellers provide proof of a current negative Coggins test and a bill of sale at the time of the transaction.

Pamela Miller, South Carolina case manager for NetPosse/Stolen Horse International, said the legislation was introduced after several owners who reported stolen horses discovered that the animals had been recovered after Hurricane Florence and sold by unauthorized individuals to unwitting buyers.

“I wrote letters to all the South Carolina state legislators and Sen. Campbell agreed to introduce the legislation,” Miller said. “In most cases, the legislators or local law enforcement didn’t know the problem existed, so I thought a bill would be useful.”

Under the proposal, those who fail to comply could receive penalties of fines or both depending on the value of the horse.

“For example, if a horse is valued at $10,000 or more it’s a felony punishable by 10 years in prison or a fine of not more than $2,500,” Miller said.

However, other believe such legislation—aside from the Coggins test documentation and bill of sale—could be time consuming and complicate horse sales, especially those of performance horses.

“Maybe (the sale of stolen horses) is a concern for lower-dollar horses, but the horses we are selling have an extensive show record,” said Doug Payne, an Aiken, South Carolina-based upper-level competitor, trainer, and performance horse seller. “It would be impossible to sell at the values we generally deal with without that completion history,” which documents the horse’s owner and rider at competitions.

The South Carolina Legislature will take up Campbell’s bill when it resumes in January.

Meanwhile, though Miller believes that the pending the legislation will help stem stolen horse sales in her state, she advises buyers everywhere to perform their own due diligence before buying a horse:

Conduct prepurchase exams.

“Buyers should bring in their own veterinarians to examine the animal to determine soundness—even age,” she said. “You can’t imagine how often people think they are buying a 5-year-old horse, then get it home and find out it’s 20 years old.”

Check for brands, tattoos, and other identifying marks.

“Then go the brand inspector, The Jockey Club, or breed associations such as the American Quarter Horse Association, for example, to see if the horse has been reported stolen,” Miller advises. “Check with breed associations to see if the horse was registered, too.”

Request health records.

“Get a Coggins report and other veterinary records such as vaccinations and treatment for illness or injuries,” she said.

Get a bill of sale.

“Whether you pay $1 or $10,000 for the horse, if you have a bill of sale, you can prove that you purchased the horse legitimately,” Miller said.