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Celebration Requests USDA Withdraw Scar Rule Violations Since May 2009



The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration (TWHNC) has asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to withdraw all alleged scar rule violations since May 2009.  This request was sent to Vilsack on March 9, 2015 by Washington law firm Kelly Drye & Warren, who successfully represented the Ringling Brothers Circus against the Humane Society of the United States.

In addition, the Celebration made the following requests in their March 9 letter

1. Withdraw all scar violations issued since May 2009.

 2. Command that VMOs and DQPs immediately cease and desist from applying the factors in part (a) to the scar rule when examining the posterior surface of the pasterns.

 3. Develop new scar rule training material and protocols based on accepted principles of veterinary science that address the proper posterior surface tissue changes that the scar rule permits and does not permit.

4. Begin using those new scar rule materials only after those protocols have been reviewed and approved by the USDA, industry leaders and independent veterinarians.

 5. Require VMOs and DQPs to adhere to requirements of new training materials and inspection protocols or face dismissal.

 6. Refrain from establishing any different or additional inspection protocols regarding posterior scars until the above noted training material and inspection protocols have been put in place.

The Celebration’s request regarding the scar rule is predicated on the fact that United States Department of Agriculture (USDA Veterinary Medical Officers (VMO) have been misapplying the Horse Protection Act (HPA) specifically as it relates to alleged scar rule violations.  According to the law, USDA VMOs must attempt to flatten or smooth out the tissue in the pastern area to determine if it is uniformly thickened. 

The scar rule expressly provides that “uniformly thickened epithelial tissue” does not constitute a violation.  The scar rule acknowledges and allows tissue changes not unlike a callous on a person’s hand. USDA Head VMO Jeff Baker has been training VMOs and DQPs that it is not necessary to attempt to flatten the tissue to determine if a violation exists.   Additionally Dr. Baker has admitted neither he nor the other USDA inspectors were conducting inspections using the prescribed methodology thereby improperly alleging HPA scar rule violations where.

The letter states “by applying a factor that is irrelevant under the scar rule, its VMOs have been violating the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).”  As of this date, there has been no response from Vilsack or the USDA.

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