Law of the West
The other day I drove up to Denver to pick up a load of roofing. Yep, last weekend was spent putting a new roof on one of the farm buildings. (And, yes, much to everyone’s surprise it is still standing despite my work.) When I went to get my order of metal roofing, I ended up at an outstanding ranch and supply store in Commerce City, Stockyards Ranch Supply. The folks there were great and on the counter was a copy of the FencePost.
After a bit we struck up a conversation and fishing for new topics to write about, I asked for suggestions. While my order of roofing and some tack that I just could not live without was rung up, the gentleman behind the counter provided truly full service by suggesting that I might write about the State’s brand inspection rules concerning horses. A great idea!
Both Wyoming and Colorado have a brand inspection requirement for horses that are hauled either around the state or across state lines. But, even before you start hauling that horse, you should have met the brand inspector when you purchased it. Let’s limit this discussion to Colorado, but there are similar rules in Wyoming.
Now, you might think that if your horse doesn’t have a brand on it, there is nothing to inspect and you don’t need to read on. You would be wrong. Even a horse without a brand needs to have a “brand inspection”.
In Colorado, a brand inspection is required each time you buy or sell a horse. It doesn’t matter whether or not the horse is moved. If it is sold, even within the same barn, then a brand inspection is required.
Additionally, Colorado requires that anytime a horse is transported more than 75 miles from its home it must have an inspection, though there are some exceptions. Whenever the horse is going to cross the state line, however, an inspection is required. If the horse is crossing a state line, then a health certificate is required when coming into Colorado.
It can take two or three days to make arrangements for a brand inspection. There are a lot of horses out there, but only a few inspectors. One way to eliminate this problem is to get a lifetime or permanent travel card for your horse. You will still need to comply with the inspection requirements when there is a sale and a health certificate will still be required when crossing the state line, but you won’t need to get a new permit each time you haul your horse to the mountains for a weekend ride.
Really what the brand inspection provides is proof of ownership.
Having a legal title to your horse when you are transporting it is important. Anytime you haul your horse, you must have proof of ownership. Any brand inspector or law enforcement officer can require you to provide proof of ownership. If the horse you are transporting isn’t yours, you also must have a letter or note from the owner authorizing the travel. If you fail to provide it, your horse could be impounded and you could be charged with a misdemeanor; in some cases the violation of Colorado’s livestock laws can even be a felony.
If you want more information about the brand inspection laws in Colorado, check out the website that the State maintains at http://www.ag.state.co.us/livestockinspection/ Regulations.html.
So, the long and short of it is, if you want a hassle-free summer, contact your local brand inspector and get a permanent travel card for your horse. The brand inspectors in Colorado are a professional bunch of folks who are truly interested in helping you understand the laws and regulations. I have never heard of a single instance where someone truly seeks their help in complying with the inspection requirements and has a bad experience. Your local inspector is really your best resources to get your horse’s papers in order.
The information provided in this column is based upon general principles of law and should not be relied upon in any manner. It is not the intent of this column, its author, publisher or the Fence Post to provide legal advice to any person. You should address specific legal questions to your family lawyer. In Wyoming, the State Bar can refer you to competent lawyers in your community by calling (307) 634-7823. In Colorado, call the Metropolitan Lawyer Referral Service at (303) 831-8000. Readers in Nebraska can receive referrals from the State Bar Association by calling 1-800-742-3005.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.