Equine Activity Liability Acts, now in 47 states, were originally enacted with the aim of providing limited liability for activities involving equines. For example, the statute in Washington State, which was the first enacted in the country, defines an “equine” as “a horse, pony, mule, donkey, or hinny.” [Rev. Code Wash. Sec. 4.24.530(1)]. Over the years, these statutes have broadened to include a variety of different animals – and some might even surprise you. A sampling of states shows the range of animals they sometimes cover. For example:

KENTUCKY 

Kentucky’s statute, codified at K.R.S. § 247.401 – 4029, is actually a “farm animal activity liability law” that applies to “cattle, oxen, sheep, swine, goats, horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, hinnies, ratites (ostrich, rhea, emu), and poultry.” K.R.S. §247.4015(2). Its legislative findings, at K.R.S. § 247.401, state:

The General Assembly finds that activities involving the use and exhibition of farm animals are engaged in by a large number of citizens of Kentucky and that these activities also attract to Kentucky a large number of nonresidents, significantly contributing to the economy of Kentucky. Since it is recognized that there are inherent risks in working with, exhibiting, and using farm animals which should be understood by participants in farm animal activities and which are essentially impossible for owners of farm animals or sponsors of farm animal activities to eliminate, it is the purpose of KRS 247.401 to 247.4029 to define the areas of responsibility and affirmative acts for which activity sponsors, professionals, and participants shall be responsible, to specify risks of injury for which activity sponsors, professionals, and participants shall not be responsible, and to specify areas of responsibilities of farm animal participants. Therefore, the General Assembly determines that to preserve and promote the long Kentucky tradition of activities involving farm animals and the health and safety of the citizens of Kentucky and visitors to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, KRS 247.401 to 247.4029 are necessary to instruct persons voluntarily engaging in farm animal activities of the potential risks inherent in the activities.

Emphasis added.

TEXAS

In 2011, Texas amended its Equine Activity Liability Act to become a “farm animal activity liability act.” [V.T.C.A., Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 87.001-005.] It defines “farm animals” to include equines, bovines, sheep, goats, pigs, hogs, ratites, including ostriches, rhea, emu, chicken or fowl. [V.T.C.A., Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 87.001(2-a)]. 

COLORADO

Colorado’s law applies to equines and llamas. C. R. S. A. § 13-21-119.

IOWA

Iowa’s statute, I. C. A. § 673.1 - .5, applies to “domesticated animals,” which are defined as “an animal commonly referred to as a bovine, swine, sheep, goat, domesticated deer, llama, poultry, rabbit, horse, pony, mule, jenny, donkey, or hinny.” I.C.A. § 673.1(2).

CONCLUSION

Equine Activity Liability Acts are not necessarily horse-related laws. Some state laws have broadened in scope to include other animals. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Look up the laws in states where you live or do business. To find your state’s law, we suggest this website.
  • Consider updating your contracts and waivers/releases to make sure you comply with the applicable equine activity liability law. You might be surprised to learn that your law was amended.
  • If you borrow old form contracts to develop your own, be cautious as the form you receive might be outdated and based on an obsolete law.