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Cezar Identified As HSUS "Insider Contact" At USDA



By Jeffrey Howard

On November 10, 2014, the Office of Congressional Ethics released their report that unanimously recommended further review of potential ethics violations by Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY1).  As part of the supporting documentation for the report, email exchanges from Whitfield Aide Marty Irby, Humane Society Legislative Fund Executive Director Sara Amundson and Humane Society Lobbyist Connie Harriman-Whitfield, the wife of the Congressman were made public.

In an exchange with Caitlin Runyan from Senator Warner’s office and Samantha Roberts with Senator Kelly Ayotte’s office, the two staffers ask Amundson for information from the USDA.  Amundson replies to the request, “Our “insider contact” has been on travel and that’s made it difficult to reaffirm our existing information.”

Amundson then informs Irby and Harriman-Whitfield that Senators Warner and Ayotte won’t move without the information.  Her email states, “We have to get things wrapped up with Rachel/USDA.”  Harriman-Whitfield replies, “Marty wanted Ed and me to meet with Rachel.”  Rachel refers to Dr. Rachel Cezar, USDA-APHIS Horse Protection Coordinator.

Later in the email exchange, Harriman-Whitfield asks, “How do we know that Rachel agrees with our arguments?” 

 Irby responds, “Verbally she told me so…don’t have it in writing but she is a close friend and wants to see this bill pass.  The issue is higher ups such as Chester Gipson and Kevin Shea.  They could be another matter.  What I asked from her was to be informal.  If we submit for something formally it could backfire.  From past personal experience I don’t think Gipson or Shea want to (sic) more USDA oversight…they want to regulate soring and not eradicate it.  I do not trust Chester Gipson at all in anyway.  I trust Rachel.  Chester is Rachel’s boss.”

The bill referred to is the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act introduced by Congressman Whitfield which would eliminate all pads and action devices along with weighted shoes in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry effectively eliminating 80% of the divisions in the show industry.  Cezar is charged with enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and oversight of the USDA Veterinary Medical Officers (VMOs).  The USDA and Public Affairs Specialist Tanya Espinosa was contacted as part of this story but chose not to comment except to say, “APHIS does not have a position on this legislation.”

At this year’s World Championship horse show, The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, VMOs disqualified an unprecedented 51% of the horses they examined.  The total violation rate at the show was triple that of the previous year and 100 horses that were disqualified on the most subjective violation had previously passed inspection by USDA VMOs over 300 times prior in 2014.  Thirty-two of those same horses also passed USDA inspections five weeks later.  

HSUS has made it clear they despise the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and have threatened sponsors to pull their sponsorships of the horse show.  Irby, once an active exhibitor at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was banned from the show after he attempted to extort them in exchange for a sponsorship for the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association.  Irby vowed to those close to him that he would get The Celebration for their action against him.

Given the “close” friendship between Cezar and Irby and the HSUS having Cezar as its “insider contact” maybe now the industry has its answer to the unprecedented increase in violations this year.  The USDA originally gave new technology as the reason for the increase in violations however when pressed on what that new technology was they admitted there was no new technology used.

Maybe the public disclosure of the relationship of Cezar and HSUS was the reason for the change and increasingly aggressive inspections.  However, that answer would only come with the release of the communication between Irby, HSUS and Cezar.  Those Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests have been made however the USDA has not yet released that complete information.  
 

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