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.
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.
Julie Fershtman 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.View All Posts by Author ›
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