Health Records and Civil Liability

   

If you are selling a horse, especially one to be shipped to a buyer in another state, you should take all measures necessary to ensure you have complied with state health documentation requirements. If a buyer wants to undo a sale and a lawsuit or dispute arises, the buyer will go through all documents you provided with a fine-tooth comb and attempt to find every detail you missed or your vet might have overlooked. 

For example, if you sold a 10 year-old horse and the negative Coggins certificate says the horse is 11 years old, a buyer might accuse you of fraud and report you to the state inspectors in charge of investigating health certificates. Mistakes involving Coggins tests are relatively common, especially in the case of large auctions where an owner may not be present to make sure the Coggins given to the buyer is on the correct horse and is accurate. Therefore, you should carefully review all health records on any horse you are selling and make sure all information is complete and correct (including the age, gender, color, breed, markings, and brands included on the health certificates). Most veterinarians will work with you to quickly issue a corrected certificate in an emergency situation. 

I am not aware of any law imposing criminal penalties on a horse owner because their veterinarian made a mistake in the description of a horse on a Coggins test when given correct information by the owner. It is ultimately the licensed veterinarian’s legal duty to correctly fill out the description of a horse on a health certificate. However, if a buyer is accusing you of civil liability for misrepresenting a horse, an inaccurate Coggins test provided by you might be a significant detriment to your case.

It is relatively easy to familiarize yourself with the state laws applicable to documentation required for horse sales and transportation.  USRider has compiled a database of state equine transport laws and contact information for the state veterinarian of each state. 

The Equine Infectious Anemia (Coggins) and the Quarantine & Health laws for each state can be found at the Equine Law & Horsemanship Safety website. Please note that the information on these sites might not be updated each year. Therefore, if in doubt you should pull the statutes excerpted by the sites and make sure they are current.

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