An Editorial By David L. Howard

Bonnie Erbe is writing stories about the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and this breed that are highlighted by an absence of facts plus untrue statements by Keith Dane.

Dane works for the Humane Society of the United States and Erbe is a television host and writes for the Scripps-Howard News Service.  I trust Ms. Erbe is an honorable person but she is allowing herself to be used by Mr. Dane, who is being less than honorable in an effort to destroy the padded show discipline and raise money for his $120 Million Dollar Society.

According to Erbe, Dane alleges that The Celebration did not enforce animal protection regulations in 2007 and “this year’s Celebration could mark a turning point where those regulations are actually enforced.”  If Mr. Dane made that statement, he is not telling the truth.  He needs to name SPECIFIC instances to back up his allegations instead of throwing mud up on the wall hoping some will be picked up by an unwitting press.

The Celebration is not specifically charged with enforcing the Horse Protection Act.  It is charged with the responsibility to hire a Horse Industry Organization, sanctioned and trained with the Federal Government, to enforce the HPA and its rules.  The Celebration routinely adds to or strengthens those rules and works with the NHSC and the USDA to make sure they are adhered to by trainers, owners and exhibitors.

No horse show in the world is more closely regulated than The Celebration and no humane group or groups have spent more time, effort and money protecting horses and enforcing the Horse Protection Act than The Celebration.  For the record, The Celebration has a budget of approximately $6,000,000 dollars and spends considerably more in one year than HSUS has ever spent in this effort despite the fact that they have 20 times more financial resources.

Dane is quoted “We watched inspectors test only one front hoof (instead of both) when they got a backlog.”  If that in fact happened, Mr. Dane should name the inspector, whether he is a representative of the Department of Agriculture or the National Horse Show Commission, rather than slander all of the inspectors and The Celebration.

Mr. Dane likewise could have reported or formally protested this unnamed inspector to the USDA, the NHSC or The Celebration. He never reported it to The Celebration, the USDA or the NHSC but he had no problem running to press with this unconfirmed allegation indicting a whole group of people working to protect the horse.

In another blatant misstatement of fact – “Dane said the Celebration promoters last year promised the Humane Society it could bring federal inspectors to perform random inspections in the show barns.  All Humane Society and federal representatives were allowed to do was ride with a Celebration security officer on a golf cart in between the barns.”

That is simply not true.  The Humane Society does not have any authority to bring federal inspectors onto The Celebration grounds or any other place.  Those decisions are made solely by the USDA, as they should be, not The Celebration, not the NHSC and certainly not HSUS.  Mr. Dane knows this and it is inexcusable to make such a false comment for national publication and Ms. Erbe needs to start checking these alleged “facts’ before blindly printing them.

In fact, The Celebration encourages the USDA to attend the entire show and has never denied any request from the Department.   The Celebration meets with the Department in advance of each year’s show to go over any changes or enhancements needing to be made and has a very cooperative professional working relationship with them. 

Yes, last year The Celebration did provide security and a golf cart to tour the grounds that comprise 105 acres and 1,696 stalls.  This was done to give them the ability to monitor the entire grounds, which is virtually impossible to do on foot.  They were not and are not limited by the show as to where they can go and any statement to the contrary is simply false.

I could go on about other misrepresentations made by Dane in Ms. Erbe’s article and in other media but enough is enough.  I challenge Mr. Dane to bring proof of his allegations to the USDA, The NHSC or The Celebration.  If these violations are so widespread and are being observed by Mr. Dane and his cronies, it is time to step up.

Name the individual who is putting eye drops on horses to blind them; bring us a pressure shod horse; bring us the name of the individual and horse that was substituted for after inspection and the horse your witnesses said  were  “so deadened with pain, their eyes seem to glaze over.”

It is time to back up these allegations with facts and time for the press to apply some level of scrutiny to these allegations and the people making them.  HSUS is primarily a money-making machine and their repeated, unsubstantiated attacks on The Celebration have provided them with significant amounts of money, very little of which is being used constructively to protect this horse.

Keith, put some of your money where your mouth is and help The Celebration and others eliminate any abused horse… and please put some facts on the table instead of allegations that slander a wonderful breed of horse and the people that own and train them.