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Ranchers now need to post sign

published: August 20th 2021
by: Martha Hollida Garrett

Amendments to Texas Farm Animal Liability Act effective Sept. 1

Governor Abbott signed House Bill 365 on June 4, 2021, which was introduced to the 87th Legislative Session by Represen-tative Andrew Murr.  This bill was designed to essentially modify the Farm Animal Liability Act (FALA)  to ensure that it does, in fact, apply to working ranches and in situations involving injured ranchers and ranch hands, among other changes. All farm animal owners should pay careful attention to the changes coming to the FALA, which will modify the scope of application and will also require additional steps be taken by farm animal owners, including posting signs on your farm and ranch.
    Tiffany Dowell Lash-met, Texas AgriLife Exten-sion associate professor and Extension specialist in agricultural law, outlined the changes made in FALA at the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course Gen-eral Session on Aug. 2nd in College Station, Texas. These changes become effective Sept. 1, 2021.
    Following is information from Dowell Lashmet about some of  the amendment’s changes.
    The act is a statute offering limited liability to farm animal owners if injuries are caused by an inherent risk to a farm animal activity.  For example, when a person rides a horse, there is an inherent risk that person could get bucked off.  Through the FALA, the Texas legislature intended to ensure the horse owner in this example would not be liable for resulting injuries.  The statute was passed in 1995 and was amended in 2011 to expand the scope beyond just equine animals to all “farm animals”.
    In 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued its opinion in Waak v. Rodri-guez, a case involving an employee who was killed while moving a bull.  The court found that the FALA was inapplicable if the injured party was a “rancher or ranch hand.”  The court believed that the legislature intended the act’s protections to apply only to situations such as “shows, rides, exhibitions, competitions, and the like.” 
    In the aftermath of the Waak decision, Murr in-troduced House Bill 365. Specifically, this bill would add language to ensure its application to working farms and ranches and in instances where a rancher or ranch hand is injured. Do note that “farm” means “any real estate, land area, facility, or ranch used wholly or partly for raising, cultivating, propagating, fattening, grazing, or any other farming, livestock, agricultural, apicultural, or aquacultural operation.” 
    The meaning of “farm animal activity” will now also include owning, raising, transporting, or pasturing a farm animal.  Similarly, the definition also includes assisting in or providing animal health management activities, including vaccines, assisting in or conducting customary tasks on a farm concerning farm animals, and transporting or moving a farm animal
    Currently, the FALA defines a farm animal professional as a person engaged for compensation in instructing a participant, or renting to a participant a farm animal for the purpose of riding, driving, or being a passenger on the farm animal; renting tack to the participant; examining or administering medical treatment to a farm animal as a veterinarian; and someone providing veterinary or farrier services– who would be required to hang the sign.   HB 365 will expand the “farm animal professional” definition to add persons en-gaged for compensation in the following activities: “providing nonmedical care or treatment to a farm animal, including vaccinations; assisting in providing animal health management activities, including vaccination; providing care, feeding, and husbandry of farm animals; assisting or conducting customary tasks on a farm concerning farm animals; and transporting or moving livestock.”  
    One of the most important changes for farm and ranch owners to be aware of has to do with the requirements that a sign be hung for farm animal professionals.  The amendments will require farm animal professionals (which is more broadly defined, as noted above) as well as all farm owners or lessees to post and maintain a sign with statutory language per the act’s requirements.  Addition-ally, the same statutory language must be included in every written contract that a farm animal professional, owner, or lessee enters into with a participant, employee, or independent contractor for professional services, instruction, or the rental of equipment or tack of a farm animal.  
    The required language has been slightly modified by the new bill, and your sign should read as follows effective Sept. 1:
WARNING
UNDER TEXAS LAW (CHAPTER 87, CIVIL PRACTICE AND REMEDIES CODE), A FARM ANIMAL PROFESSIONAL OR FARM OWNER OR LESSEE IS NOT LIABLE FOR AN INJURY TO OR THE DEATH OF A PARTICIPANT IN FARM ANIMAL ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING AN EMPLOYEE OR INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR, RESULTING FROM THE INHERENT RISKS OF FARM ANIMAL ACTIVITIES.
    This is critical for farm and ranch owners.  Pre-viously, farm and ranch owners and lessees were not required to hang the sign.  Now, however, they will need to do so.  Moreover, because the statutory language re-quired for the sign has been changed (by including farm owners or lessees to the list of those protected and adding the language about independent contractors or employees), farm animal professionals and farm and ranch owners may want to obtain signs with this new language out of an abundance of caution.
    Dowell Lashmet said that Texas Farm Bureau  and possibly other organizations have the signs available or you can have your own made. For more information on the bill and its provisions visit https://agri life.org/texasaglaw/files/2021/07/Whats-New-on-the-Farm.pdf.

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