Equine law in India: A Note

Anwita Mukherjee, an equestrian and a Law graduate from Queen Mary university of London writes about Equine law and its indian connections.

Undoubtedly considered one of the most magnificent creatures in nature, horses, in the course of evolution, have found more representation in domesticity than in the wild. Very few feral horses remain in India and a majority of them have succumbed to forced domesticity.

Being an equestrian, my views might be biased but it is inarguably true that horses are the only creatures which would need more legal representation than any other animal or even vehicle for that matter. They are no ordinary livestock animal; strictly speaking from the monetary point of view, some horses cost more than airplanes. Take Moorland Totilas for example, take Fusaichi Pegasus for example, take Green Monkey for example and these are just a couple of examples. Though we can safely assume that animal rights apply uniformly to these creatures as well, gaming and gambling laws become another perspective of equine law. A horse is an athlete so sports laws apply to them as well. A number of legal transactions, including buying and selling of horses, their immigration laws also apply. The inclusive nature of equine laws stem from the fact that horses can act as vehicles, livestock, feral animals, gambling and gaming entities and a lot more.

From the Indian perspective, there were a lot of conflicting opinions about why horse betting should be on the same page as other gambling activities. The Supreme Court of India ruled in 1996 that horse betting is not purely luck based but skill based as well. Hence, it falls out of the boundaries of the Gambling Act of 1930. Horse racing is definitely more than just gambling.

It shall be pertinent to mention that all animal laws apply to horses, with regard to its breeding and using the same on race tracks. The horse breeding industry is also expected to improve in India after the Union Finance Minister decided to take steps to improve the same industry, thus making ‘Make in India’ a possibility for Indian breeders.

There are some cattle fairs which are conducted in parts of India and there are arguably a lot of incidents due to amateur “horse dance shows” and lack of veterinary facilities, which more than often, lead to death of equines. Despite well written provisions of animal rights law and directives, equine laws are never adhered to, in this situation.

The recent incident of the illegal capturing of feral horses in Assam’s Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is another evidence of why India needs more stringent equine laws.

Unlike the US where equine laws have their presence felt at the federal level through the largest horse-specific law at the federal level- Wild and free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, India picks up from a number of acts from eclectic fields of law and makes  up for the same. If implemented properly and if directives are adhered to, these laws can effectively help in the equine situation of the country. Talking about keeping a horse as pets, a lot of people wish to trot these majestic animals around for societal value and that shouldn’t ideally be the case. To keep a horse, one should pay heed to the availability of space for the horse to exercise, whether the person trying to keep the animal can do the same for the entire lifespan of the horse.  There are old, abused and abandoned horses and adopting them would be the humane choice.

The condition of horses in India, feral or in business, can considerably improve with the correct application of equine laws and even consider legislating an umbrella provision for protection of these creatures.

By : Anwita Mukherjee

Writer is an entrepreneur and equestrian. She’s an alum of the prestigious Queen Mary University of London and her field of study is nuclear law.

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