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Fifth Circuit Finds Inspections More Art Than Science

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s ruling on the USDA Minimum Penalty Protocol on February 19, 2015.  The USDA initially introduced the new regulation in June 2012 however the Fifth Circuit reversed and vacated the district courts ruling and remanded the case for judgment in favor of Contender Farms and McGartland.

The industry, along with Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Senator Lamar Alexander have been pushing for more objective, science-based inspections and the Fifth Circuit agreed with the problems in the current inspection system.  “As the record indicates, inspections are far more art than science.  In many cases, inspectors, veterinarians and other professionals will disagree as to whether a horse is actually a sore.”

Another problem with the current subjective inspections for Tennessee Walking Horses is those inspections are not always accurate. The Fifth Circuit also agreed stating, “This Regulation targets soring, which is a practice that yields a large number of “false positives.”  Inspectors face significant difficulties distinguishing violators from non-violators.”

The court, veterinarian community, industry and even the humane groups have all recognized the current system of enforcement of the HPA is not effective.  The USDA was presented with an independent HIO in early February that would rely on independent, expert veterinarian leadership that will institute objective testing to eliminate soring.  The decision lies with the USDA to certify this HIO and begin the future of inspections in the industry that will eliminate the practice of “soring” and place the proper emphasis on the welfare of the horse.

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