Bates, Esquivel promise to oppose horse bill

Two Medford state legislators pledged Monday to kill a bill now before the Oregon Legislature that has local horse owners hopping mad because it would tax and register horses in Oregon and regulate their transportation in ways the owners consider ridiculous.

After more than 100 horse owners and others in the equine industry packed a joint town hall meeting Monday in Medford, state Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, and state Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, both said they would work to ensure that Senate Bill 262 dies in committee.

"When we get even 40 to 50 people, we get the message," Bates told the crowd. "I will not support it, and I am not going there.

"I want you to be assured that this bill will not pass," "It's one of the stupidest bills I've ever seen."

The meeting was set for a 35-person room at the Medford Central Library, but horse owners filled the hallways and spilled out onto Central Avenue even before Esquivel and Bates entered.

The meeting was shifted to the library's open reading areas on the second floor.

It was billed as an opportunity for Rogue Valley residents to share views on issues pending before the legislature, which reconvenes Feb. 1 in Salem.

Discussions included a look at the various issues facing the Legislature, including managing the states' $3.5 billion budget shortfall.

But the legislators cut right to SB 262 and all its problems.

The bill was introduced at the request of an Oregon Senate interim committee.

Along with the ownership certificates, the bill also lays out minimum standards for horse trailers and sets in motion an equine trader permit system. It also would require that any horse transported for eight hours must get a six-hour break outside of the trailer.

"You can't just let a horse out of trailer while you're traveling," said horse owner Nicole Strykowski of Medford. "Are they going to set up rest areas for horses."

If adopted, the program would be run out of the state Department of Agriculture, with initial ownership certificates costing $25. The certificates must be available in the summer of 2012, with the rule requiring certificates for any horse staying in Oregon for more than 30 consecutive days starting in 2015.

First-time offenders would be fined $500, with subsequent offenses carrying $1,000 fines.

Bates and Esquivel said they had less than 24 hours of familiarity with the bill, which most speakers argued was an attempt to vastly over-regulate the horse industry.

"It may be well-intended, but it's just misguided," said Tal Thoms, a Central Point man who is president of the Rogue Valley Equestrian Trails Association.

Esquivel warned the bill's opponents that the only way to ensure the issue's death was to take their message directly to Salem.

"You need to get into the face of every legislator in the state," Esquivel said.

Some in attendance worried that the political climate in Oregon will continue to put a squeeze on horse owners even if the bill never sees the light of a legislative hearing.

"Horse people, we're not putting a stake in this bill's heart," warned Debbie Catalina of Williams, "We're going to see it again, people."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail at

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