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AHC Opposes Blackburn Legislation



The American Horse Council and President Jay Hickey have publicly taken a stand in opposition to H.R. 4098, introduced by Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).  The major points of opposition center around the lack of a ban of the pad, action device and weighted shoe and the allowance of a single, independent HIO.  The American Horse Council is in favor of the PAST Act, H.R. 1518, introduced by Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY).

The stance of the American Horse Council regarding Walking Horse legislation is in direct contradiction to their stance against federal legislation and oversight of the Thoroughbred industry.  Although the Blackburn legislation calls for an independent HIO board, the American Horse Council and Humane Society of the United States continue to imply that appointees to the board by the Agricultural Commissioners from Tennessee and Kentucky will be "controlled" by the Walking Horse industry.  For the American Horse Council to take this position without any factual evidence to who the appointees by the commissioners will be is very troubling.

Here is the complete American Horse Council release:

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has introduced the Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2013 (H.R.4098), a bill to amend the Horse Protection Act (HPA).

The HPA was enacted in 1970 and prohibits the showing, sale, or transport of a horse that has been sored. Soring is an abusive practice used by some horse trainers in the Tennessee Walking Horse, Spotted Saddle Horse, and Racking Horse industry to intentionally cause pain in a horse’s forelegs and produce an accentuated show gait for competition.

The AHC opposes the Blackburn bill because it does not address many of the shortfalls of the current HPA enforcement program. The AHC continues to support the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (PAST Act) (H.R. 1518) that would strengthen the HPA and prevent the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses, and Racking Horses.

The Blackburn bill would establish a single new Horse Industry Organization (HIO) that would be responsible for licensing and providing inspectors to horse shows, auctions and exhibitions. Currently, there are multiple U.S. Department Agriculture (USDA) certified HIOs that are responsible for licensing Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs). DQPs are persons familiar with horses who may be appointed and delegated authority by the management of a horse show or sale to inspect horses and detect those that are sored. By hiring DQPs, show and sale managers may insulate themselves from liability should a sored horse show or be sold at their event.  Under the Blackburn bill, the management of horse shows, auctions and exhibitions would establish a formal relationship with the new HIO to insulate themselves from liability and hire or obtain inspectors.

The new HIO would be governed by a board consisting of two individuals appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture of Tennessee and two individuals appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture of Kentucky.  These four board members would in turn appoint two representatives from the walking horse industry in consultation with the Walking Horse Trainers Association.  These six board members would then appoint three additional board members for a total of nine.

The bill would require the new HIO to issue policies requiring any person licensed with the HIO or an immediate member of such person’s family to be free from conflicts of interest or any association with the industry.

Ninety (90) days after establishment of the new HIO the certification of all existing HIOs would be revoked.

The Blackburn bill has 9 co-sponsors: Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), John Duncan (R-TN), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Diane Black (R-TN), Stephen Lee Fincher (R-TN), Andy Barr (R-KY), Nick Rahall (D-WV), and  David Roe (R-TN).

The AHC believes the Blackburn bill would not effectively address the continued problem of soring in the Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse, or Spotted Saddle Horse industries for the following reasons:

1.         Unlike the PAST Act, which prohibits action devices, chains, weighted shoes, and pads on the three named breeds, the Blackburn bill does not address action devices, weighted shoes, pads, wedges, hoof bands or other devices that are constructed to artificially alter the gait of Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses, or Spotted Saddle Horses. Such devices are an integral part of soring and facilitate the practice in the “big lick” or performance horse segments of the walking horse industry, usually in conjunction with chemical irritants or substances.

The American Association Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and the American Veterinarian  Medical Association (AVMA)  have both called for a ban on the use of action devices and pads or performance packages on Walking Horses because of the role such devices play in the soring process.

2.         The bill does not increase fines and penalties for soring, which are currently inadequate and fail to discourage or prevent repeat offenders from continuing to sore horses.

3.         The bill does not prohibit the actual soring of horses and leaves in place only the current prohibition on the showing, transport and sale of sore horses.  

4.         Despite the failure of the current HIO system, the bill would establish by statute the single new HIO of nine individuals that largely retains the current walking horse industry self-policing structure.  It would also require the dissolution of all existing HIOs some of which currently prohibit action devices and pads at their shows.

For these reasons, the AHC opposes the Blackburn bill and maintains its support of the PAST Act. 

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