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American Horse Council Endorses USDA Proposed Amendment



Editor's Note:  The Walking Horse Report has obtained the American Horse Council's public comment on the proposed amendment to the Horse Protection Regulations requiring HIOs to enforce mandatory penalties.  The Walking Horse Report is disappointed in the American Horse Council's position and will be following up with the American Horse Council.

June 26, 2011

Docket No. APHIS-2011-0030
Regulatory Analysis and Development
PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road, Unit 118
Rockville, MD 20737-1238

Re:   Docket No. APHIS-2011-0030
Horse Protection Act; Requiring Horse Industry Organizations to Assess and Enforce Minimum Penalties for Violations

Dear Sir or Madam:

The American Horse Council (AHC) appreciates the opportunity to submit these comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), on the proposed rule changes to amend the horse protection regulations to require horse industry organizations or associations that license Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs) to assess and enforce minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act (HPA). The AHC supports APHIS’ efforts to strengthen enforcement of the HPA.

The American Horse Council

The AHC is a Washington-based association that represents individual members and over 120 equine organizations before Congress and the federal regulatory agencies.  AHC member organizations include breed registries, national and state equine associations, state horse councils, recreational associations, and organizations representing race tracks, horsemen, horse shows, veterinarians, farriers, rodeos, and other equine related stakeholders.  The AHC also includes individual horse owners and breeders, veterinarians, farriers, trainers, professional, amateur, and recreational riders, and commercial suppliers.  Individually, and through our organizational members, the AHC represents several hundred thousand horse owners and others involved in all sectors of the horse industry.

HPA Proposed Rule Changes

The AHC notes the extensive background information included in the proposed rule changes relating to the HPA and the September 2010 Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit report.

The AHC supports the rational of the OIG’s recommendations as they apply to requiring HIOs, which license DQPs, to assess and enforce minimum penalties for violation, and the AHC notes APHIS agreed with each of OIG’s thirteen findings and recommendations.

The AHC promotes further incorporation of available technologies to be used during the inspection process.  The hand inspection process can result in a variation of opinion between informed and well-intentioned individuals, and as a result, some have expressed concerns that the DQP inspection incorporates a level of subjectivity in evaluating each specific horse.  In an attempt to alleviate these concerns, the AHC supports the enhanced use of gas chromatography/mass spectrometry technology and thermography cameras during the inspection process.

As discussed in the OIG’s audit report, the historic and current level of funding for the Horse Protection Program has not, and does not, enable the Agency to oversee and enforce the HPA adequately.   In fiscal year 2007, HPA’s program budget was sufficient to send APHIS veterinarians to approximately 30 of the 463 accredited shows, or 6 percent. Given the weaknesses in the inspection process, APHIS employees need to attend more shows to ensure that horses are inspected adequately.  The AHC supports the OIG audit finding which recommended USDA seek an appropriate level of funding that will help provide for additional inspectors, training, security, and advanced detection equipment, including thermography and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry machines.

The AHC has worked with appropriators in Congress and requested an increase to $900,000 for the HPA to address the very issues outlined above.  Unfortunately, even though the increase to $900,000 was included in the President’s FY 2012 Budget, the HPA was maintained at the previous year’s funding level.  The AHC will continue to work with Congress and USDA to obtain the appropriate level of funding needed to strengthen enforcement of the HPA.

The AHC encourages USDA to continue to incorporate transparency and collaboration in all future HPA initiatives and to work cooperatively with the HIOs, show managers, and  industry participants to ensure the industry thrives while also eliminating the act of soring.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments.  If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact us. 

Sincerely,  
                    
James J. Hickey, Jr.
President

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