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Clarification On Mandatory Penalties

Many questions have circulated in the industry lately regarding the mandatory penalties and whether they are in effect or not.  For HIOs that have accepted the mandatory penalties, they are in effect just as they have been since the HIO signed on.  For those HIOs that have not signed, the penalties at their horse shows are not in effect.

The new rule from the USDA went into effect July 9, 2012.  For HIOs that did not sign after that date, those HIOs are still operating with their 2012 rulebook that was approved earlier in the year.  The USDA can pursue decertification of HIOs that do not become a signatory to the mandatory penalties but do have to go through the decertification process as outlined in its regulations.  Once an HIO is notified of its decertification by the Department, that HIO has thirty (30) days in which to file an appeal and is entitled to a hearing before the Secretary.  To date, no HIO has received any such notice of decertification from the USDA.

The SHOW HIO filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging, among other things, the constitutionality of the new rule.  That lawsuit originally had a trial date of July 16, 2012, however, both parties agreed to postpone the hearing and entered into a scheduling order to allow for filing of evidence and the opportunity to object to the other side’s evidence.  A briefing schedule will be entered by the Court once the evidentiary issues have been resolved. 

If the USDA VMOs are present at a horse show that is affiliated with an HIO that has not signed onto the mandatory penalties, violations given by that HIO will still be subject to the penalties specified in that HIOs rulebook.  If the USDA VMO takes information at that event, the same process that has always been in place under the HPA would be followed by the USDA.  If the USDA chooses to pursue a federal case on that information, the alleged violator of the HPA will be entitled to notice of the violation and a hearing before the USDA administrative law courts with a right of appeal to the appropriate United States Court of Appeals. 

For more information contact any HIO or contact USDA APHIS at their web site at

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