NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — A situation in Thomas County could change how horses can be confined in Nebraska.
Officials are considering new regulations after Seneca residents complained about the living conditions of six horses within village limits.
Jackie Sevier lives outside of town but drives past the horses when she goes to the post office or restaurant. She said they are crowded into pens approximately 12 feet by 20 feet, which gives them little room to exercise or lie down. According to Sevier, the corrals are filled with deep mud, manure and urine.
“On Monday, you could smell it from a long way away,” Sevier said. “It’s pretty unsanitary for everybody.”
Larry Isom, Village of Seneca trustee, said livestock has been allowed within village limits. But that changed after the Village Board passed a new ordinance May 6.
“It’s because of the horses,” Isom said. “It’s too bad someone has to mess things up for everyone else, but Seneca is still a village. It’s not a ranch.”
Rodney Petrie, a Thedford veterinarian, inspected the horses three weeks ago and determined they were healthy.
“They are in good shape,” Petrie said. “They are being fed and watered. They’re just not in a very big space.”
Thomas County Sheriff Gary Eng said the horses attract flies, and that they stink. However, without an ordinance, his hands have been tied.
The owners “are not in violation of anything,” Eng said. “There is nothing in state statutes that says each animal has to have so many square feet of space.”
Nebraska enacted the Livestock Animal Welfare Act in 2010. Its regulations do not restrict how many horses can be in a specific size of pen or identify how long they can stay there.
“We’ve looked at it and looked at it,” Eng said. “It’s frustrating. Unless the Legislature says they can’t be within a certain size corral, legally, there’s not a darn thing we can do.”
He said the situation might have worked itself out anyway.
“I visited with (the owners), and they’ve found a place to move” the horses, Eng said.
Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis plans to work on a permanent solution after the Legislature adjourns for the year. However, he fears that writing a law to address the problem will be problematic.
He said it would be difficult to prohibit the confinement of horses in tiny corrals while still allowing the animals to be kept in stalls.
“There definitely is a gap in the system,” Davis said. “I just don’t know how in the world we would fix it.”