Reflection on the past 12 months is a popular activity right now. It’s that time of year, and it doesn’t require a lot of real work over the holidays. Happy New Year!

The Feds: The Department of Homeland Security rescinded the so-called "no-match rule" requiring employers to fire all employees whose information did not match Social Security records. The horse industry, a significant employer of foreign-born workers, breathed a collective sigh of relief.

A few pieces of equine-related legislation were introduced in 2009; all were sent to committee, where they have languished. Whether the bills will progress beyond committee in 2010 is anybody’s guess.

H.R. 503, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009, referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on March 16, 2009.

S. 727, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009, referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, March 26, 2009.

S. 1579, the Restore Our American Mustangs Act, referred to House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, August 5, 2009.

The States: The Kentucky legislature amended KRS 321.185 making veterinary records confidential, and in the process made it illegal for veterinarians to report suspected cases of animal neglect or abuse.  An amendment is planned.

On the welfare front, the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranked California, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, and Oregon as the states with the strongest animal abuse and neglect laws in 2009. The same states led the ADLF rankings for 2008. At the bottom of the list, with the weakest legal protection for animals, were Hawaii (replacing Arkansas from 2008), Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Dakota. Kentucky, the self-proclaimed "Horse Capital of the World," was singled out as the worst state in the Union for animal protection laws.

Organizations & Agencies: The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission took a stand against the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses by linking state breeder incentive payments to tighter inspection of horses and verification of humane treatment at horse shows.

Following the seizure of 177 allegedly neglected horses from a farm owned by Thoroughbred breeder Ernest Paragallo, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board announced plans for more frequent inspections of state breeding farms to insure that incentive funds do not go to owners and breeders who abuse their horses. Paragallo entered not guilty pleas to multiple charges of animal abuse, with trial scheduled for 2010.

The New York Racing Association announced a policy denying stalls to anyone who sells a horse for slaughter.

The United States Trotting Association reclassified Martha Maxine, who had raced successfully as a female, as a male for all future races.

The Courts: The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in U.S. v. Stevens. A decision should be announced in Spring 2010 on whether the current federal prohibition on creating and/or selling videos showing acts of animal cruelty (in this case dog fights) violates the First Amendment protection for free speech.

ClassicStar LLC operators entered guilty pleas to federal charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States through a Thoroughbred mare lease program that generated a reported $500 million in bogus tax deductions for investors.

A settlement in a lawsuit claiming fraud in the sale of a show horse netted $187,000 for actor Tom Selleck and his family.

Michael Vick, convicted of running a dog fighting ring, is back in the NFL.