As owners, riders, and trainers prepare to travel to Florida for the winter show circuits, many are planning to buy or sell horses and ponies, whether for sport or regularly conducted business. However, some of these transactions — as they are anticipated to be structured — would violate Florida law.
A decade ago, the Florida State Legislature enacted a statute giving the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services the authority to examine and promulgate rules preventing unfair or deceptive trade practices relating to the disclosure of legal owners or buyers of a horse, dual agency of a buyer and seller, the disclosure of medical conditions, defects and surgeries, conduct or alterations that could affect the performance of the horse, the need for a written bill of sale containing specific types of information, disclosures and representations. Regulations set forth in the Florida Administrative Code (“FAC”) quickly followed. Yet, many owners and agents remain unaware of the now-not-so-new regulations and inadvertently violate Florida law in the course of selling horses.
The FAC requires a written bill of sale for equine transactions that contains certain enumerated information, representations, and warranties. For example, in addition to including basic information typically included — such as the name address and signature of the owner and purchaser (or their respective agents), the date of sale, purchase price, and the name of the horse — the bill of sale must also include representations by the owner or owner’s agent that he or she is the lawful owner (or agent) and is authorized to convey legal title of the horse. Similarly, the bill of sale must include a statement that the purchaser understands that any warranties or representations relied upon in acquiring the horse — such as age, medical condition, prior medical treatments, and the existence of any liens or encumbrances — should be provided in writing as part of the bill of sale. If known, the bill of sale must also identify the sire and dam of the horse, the breed and registry status of the horse, and the horse’s age.
Whether required to be included in the bill of sale or not, the FAC makes clear that owners and their agents can no longer withhold disclosure of medical information under the pretense of “buyer-be-ware.” The FAC imposes an obligation on all owners and agents of owners, upon inquiry of the purchaser, to provide any medical history of a horse within the knowledge of the owner or owner’s agent that pertains to the inquiry. Further, an owner or agent has an affirmative duty to disclose the following treatments if given to a horse within 7 days before the sale:
- Extra-corporal shockwave therapy or radio pulse-wave therapy;
- Acupuncture, electro-stimulation (or both) with the intent or effect of altering the laryngeal function of the horse;
- Internal blister or other injections behind the knee, which are intended to or which have the effect of concealing the true conformation of the horse;
- The use of any electrical or mechanical device designed or used to shock or prod a horse for the purpose of increasing the horse’s speed when it is being exhibited prior to sale, except for the use of a whip, spurs, or items otherwise permitted by the rules of the governing breed association, federation, or other regulatory bodies.
It is critical that any person involved in the sale of a horse in Florida comply with the requirements in the FAC because any violation resulting in actual damages to a person are considered unfair and deceptive trade practices and give rise to an award of actual damages, attorneys’ fees and court costs, and civil penalties. Many other states have their own laws governing equine transactions, with similar consequences for violations. If you are planning on buying or selling horses as owner, seller, trainer or agent, there is no time like the present to review your agreements and best practices relating to horse sales in the states where you conduct business.
Stay tuned for Part II, which will review requirements for written agency agreements, commission agreements, and disclosure of ownership interests in horses of trainers and agents.
If you have any questions relating to this topic or other equine law matters, please contact Karin Corbett, Esquire at 484-531-1702 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT KARIN CORBETT
Karin Corbett is a business attorney and litigator who effectively prevents, resolves and litigates legal disputes for businesses and individuals alike in a variety of industries; but her focus is primarily in the construction & real estate and equine industries.
As a construction and real estate attorney, Ms. Corbett negotiates contracts, analyzes and advises clients on all types of business matters, litigates contract claims.
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