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State Appeals Court rules for Horse Hub

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Court of Appeals last week upheld a trial court's decision for the woman who runs The Horse Hub in the Wheel Community just east of the Marshall County line.

Horse Hub proprietor Bonnie Cady was fined $17,000 in March 2005 by the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners for practicing veterinary medicine, including artificial insemination and ultrasound exams.

Those and other practices were deemed to be inconsistent with the Board's regulations, but Cady appealed to an administrative law court, lost, and took her case to the Chancery Court of Davidson County where Chancellor Carol L. McCoy ruled that the previous rulings were inconsistent with state law.

"The state appealed it to the Court of Appeals," Cady said Monday.

Citing several other case rulings, Appeals Court Judge Frank G. Clement Jr. wrote, "If an agency's action exceeds its statutory authority, this court may vacate the agency's decision... If the rules adopted by the agency or board are inconsistent with the statute, then they are invalid."

The opinion written by Clement for a three judge panel "means that what I was doing was not outside the law," Cady said. "The veterinary board was wrong in what it thought" about authority and the law.

"After this," she continued in a telephone interview on Monday, "they changed the rules that made it more specific to say on breeding forms that you don't have to be a veterinarian to perform those breeding functions."

The state House Agriculture Committee in February 2005 gathered information that led to a change in state law making it clear that artificial insemination, among other practices performed by farmers without a vet present, were ordinary farm management practices.

As other states don't require a veterinarian to be present when artificial breeding activities are conducted, the then-executive director of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' & Exhibittors' Association in Lewisburg, Charles Hulsey, said, "We're interested in the economic impact of this."

Rehdona Rose of the Tennessee Farm Bureau acknowledged that costs for breeding large animals would increase if veterinarians were required more often during artificial insemination as then required by the veterinarian board's view of its authority.

During the 2005 hearing, Veterinarian Medical Examiners Board Vice Chairwoman Mary Welch said state law lets owners of large animals conduct artificial insemination and ultrasound for their animals, but doing so for a fee requires a veterinary license.

Agriculture Committee Chairman Gene Davidson told Welch, "Farmers help each other - swapping out work."

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Jim Tracey (R-Shelbyville) in 2006 led to an adjustment of state law on artificial insemination and it applied to swine, cattle and other breeds.

Cady has owned and operated The Horse Hub on Davidson Road since 1986. Recently, she sold some of her 318 acres. She has four barns and 56 stalls. She's a member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders Association and has formal training in breeding horses from Colorado State University.

She estimated her legal costs at "approximately $35,000" to fight the allegations originally brought by the state Department of Health.

Cady has continued her services and notes, "The Walking Horse business is going through a lot of problems like the economy and so a lot of people aren't breeding horses right now...

"It's unfortunate that this had to happen, but I guess everything has a reason," she said. "I try not to live in yesterday."