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Rep. DesJarlais Reintroduces Bill to Amend HPA



Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) reintroduced a bill, H.R. 1338, on March 2, 2017, to amend the Horse Protection Act (HPA) that would eliminate the current inconsistent and subjective inspection methods and replace them with objective, science-based inspections. Rep. DesJarlais’s bill mirrors the bill he introduced in the previous Congress, which was originally introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-7).

The new protocols for inspection would be based upon expert veterinarian input and be administered by a single enforcement entity under the HPA. Currently the HPA is enforced by multiple HIOs that all have different rules and enforcement guidelines.

The current bill kept the same original list of co-sponsors, Phil Roe (R-TN-1), Jimmy Duncan(R-TN-2), Chuck Fleishmann (R-TN-3), Diane Black (R-TN-6) and Blackburn from Tennessee. Hal Rogers (R-KY-5) and Andy Barr (R-KY-6). There are two new co-sponsors from Kentucky, James Comer (R-KY-1) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY-2). Comer replaced Rep. Ed Whitfield in the new Congress.

The inconsistency in inspections, conducted by both the USDA Veterinary Medical Officers and industry Designated Qualified Persons, has severely damaged the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. At the 2016 Celebration, USDA Veterinary Medical Officers disagreed 22% of the time on whether a horse was compliant or not and 52% of the time the VMOs disagreed on their inspection finding.

In a 2015 opinion against the rulemaking efforts of the USDA, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out this fact calling inspections, “more art than science,” and acknowledging that current inspection protocols lead to many false positives.

The new bill would enact protocols that are “conducted using only inspection methods based on science-based protocols (including swabbing or blood testing protocols) that – 
(A) have been the subject of testing and are capable of producing scientifically reliable, reproducible results;
(B) have been subjected to peer review; and
(C) have received acceptance in the veterinary or other applicable scientific community.”

The HIO formed by the legislation will issue policies requiring any person licensed with the HIO or an immediate family member of such person to be free from conflicts of interest or any association with the industry.  The HIO would be governed initially by a board consisting of the following:
(A) Two individuals each appointed by the Commissioners of Agriculture of Tennessee and Kentucky
(B) Two individuals representing the industry by the above four persons in consultation with the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association
(C) Not more than three individuals shall be appointed by the six individuals above
 

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