West Virginia has taken the first step in joining a number of states that have adopted regulations governing the standards of care farmers must provide to livestock in their care, by proposing standards of their own.

New Jersey, Colorado and Ohio already have regulations governing the minimum humane standards of care required for the raising, breeding and marketing of livestock and poultry.

In addition to general requirements setting forth standards for feeding, watering, exhibiting, handling, transporting, and providing adequate ventilation, space, health care, and biosecurity, the regulations set forth separate specific standards of care for the following: beef cattle; bison and veal; dairy cattle; equine; small ruminants; swine; poultry; and captive cervids.

The regulations list specific practices that are authorized by the rule, promulgated by West Virginia Livestock Care Standards Board which was established to draft the standards considered necessary to maintain food safety, encourage locally grown and raised food, and protect West Virginia farms and families.

Practices authorized by the Board for beef cattle, bison and veal, include, for example: castration; disbudding; dehorning; identification, including: tattoos; tagging; freeze branding; hot branding; and ear notching; supernumerary teat removal; hoof trimming; artificial insemination; embryo transfer; navel dipping; breeding soundness evaluations; surgery; and nose rings.

The Board permits tail docking of dairy cattle if performed as specified, but prohibits soring of horses, defined as

an irritating or blistering agent has been applied, internally or externally, by a person to any limb of a horse, any bum, cut or laceration has been inflicted by a person on any limb of horse; any tack, nail, screw, or chemical agent has been injected by a person into or used by a person on any limb of a horse; or any other substance or device has been used by a person on any limb of a horse or a person has engaged in a practice involving a horse and, as a result of such application, infliction, injection, use, or practice, such horse suffers, or can reasonably be expected to suffer physical pain or distress, inflammation, or lameness when walking, trotting or otherwise moving, except that such term does not include such application, infliction, injection, use or practice in connection with the therapeutic treatment of a horse by or under the supervision of a person licensed to practice veterinary care.

All complaints regarding the inhumane treatment of livestock must be forwarded from the sheriff, humane officer, or county commission in the county in which the complaint originated to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and the Livestock Care Standards Board.

A similar provision in New Jersey was adopted to help ensure that officials with the requisite knowledge of livestock and poultry are investigating claims of substandard or inhumane care.

Such provisions are necessary to make sure that animals are properly cared for while protecting the rights of producers and owners who are properly caring for their animals.