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How to (Legally) Brand Your Horse

Why Do States Regulate Brands?

The reasons for state government regulation of livestock brands are just as valid today as they were a century ago. States regulate brands to protect the integrity of a given brand, to avoid confusing the public by having two farms with nearly identical brands, to give notice that a brand has been "taken" in order to fend off others who might want to claim a similar design, and sometimes to help identify the owner or breeder of the branded animal (comparable to a permanent "dog tag").

Find Your State Branding Law

Before branding your horses or livestock, find out whether your state has a branding law or regulation. If so, find out how to comply with it. To learn more about state regulations that might affect you, such as branding laws, you can search online for your state’s law. One website offers a list, find it here (asci.uvm.edu/equine/law/brands/brand.htm).

Example of a State Branding Law

As an example one state’s branding law, Michigan’s law [codified at Michigan Compiled Laws Section 287.221] regulates “brands” on horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, and goats by allowing their owners to register a brand with the state. Although the law does not define exactly what a “brand” is, the law specifies that “earmarks, tattoos, or vaccination marks” do not qualify as brands.

Your state’s branding law might regulate the minimum size for registered brands. Michigan’s law, for example, requires brands to be at least 2 inches high if on horses and at least 3 inches high, if on cattle.

In some cases, a division of state government might take charge of registering and recording brands. Michigan, for example, has a Livestock Brand Registration Division within the Michigan Department of State. New brands are recorded, and existing brands are renewed, when the applicant sends in an application and pays a fee to this department.

If your state’s law gives a recorded brand a limited life, you will need to renew. This usually means that you will need to submit a renewal application form and pay a fee. Check your state’s law to find out renewal requirements, if any.

Other Suggestions

Registration of your brand according to state law might not be enough, especially if you want your brand to become an integral part of your farm’s identity, such as in your business logo, web site, or marketing efforts. Consider having your brand properly registered with the federal government as a trademark or service mark. Because the law in this area can be complex, a knowledgeable lawyer can assist you.

This article does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.

Categories: Regulatory

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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.

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Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed by the State Bar of Michigan. The interview, which called Fershtman "Lawyer-Blogger," discussed our Equine Law Blog. We truly believe that this blog is the nation's most active blog serving the equine industry on equine law topics, and we thank you for visiting it. Read more here.

Julie Fershtman’s Recent and Upcoming Equine Law Speaking Engagements Include:

National Conference on Equine Law in Louisville, Kentucky on April 29, 2020. Topic will be on Waivers/Releases of Liability Involving Minor Participants. 

U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado on December 10, 2019. Topic will be on Equine Liability. 

IRMI Emmett J. Vaughan Agribusiness Conference (“AgriCon”) in Sacramento, CA (April 2019), and Richmond, VA (June 2019) and in Des Moines, IA (September 2019), on topics of “Equine Activity Liability Acts” and “Equine Mortality Insurance Disputes.”

National Conference on Equine Law in May 2019 in Lexington, KY, on the topic of “Equine Activity Liability Act Updates” and liabilities involving hosting of equine clinics. 

Agricultural Claims Conference in Kansas City, MO, in March 2019 on topics of “Loose Livestock Liabilities.”

2018 American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, on “Equine Mortality Coverage and Disputes.”

November 2018, American Horse Council webinar on “Equine Liability.”

Honors & Recognitions

Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:

"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee

"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council

"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership

"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council

"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association

"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association 

What our Equine Law Services can Provide

Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.

Litigating disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).

Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals,  businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.

Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.

Representing and advising insurers on  coverage and policy language as well as litigation;

Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.

Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.

Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners. 


Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Morgan Horse Association Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie.

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