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General Counsel Responds Regarding Inspection Process

General Counsel Jeffrey M. Prieto responded to Joseph Wilson with Kelley Drye & Warren, LLP, counsel for the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration with a letter clarifying the inspection process.  Just as in years past, the responsibility for disqualifying a horse from competition after that horse has been found in violation of the HIO rules by a Designated Qualified Person or the HPA by a Veterinarian Medical Officer lies on show management.

“The HPA directs the management of any horse show or horse exhibition to disqualify any horse from being shown or exhibited which is sore or upon notification by a Designated Qualified Person or APHIS that a horse is sore,” stated Prieto in his letter.  One change the letter stated is that show management will not be allowed to delegate this responsibility.  “In the past, show management could delegate the responsibility to disqualify sore horses to APHIS officials (as they generally do with DQPs).  To avoid any potential for confusion about the party responsible for disqualifying a horse, APHIS will neither request nor accept delegation from show management at the Celebration to disqualify horses.”

The letter also pointed out the ability of the owner, trainer, exhibitor, or custodian to request a reexamination.  “As always, the owner, trainer, exhibitor, or custodian may submit a request to the APHIS Show Veterinarian for a reexamination of the horse in accordance with section 11.4(h) of the HPA regulations.”

The letter went on to explain that no civil penalty or future disqualification of the parties would happen prior to that party being given notice and opportunity for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.  Prieto also clarified for show management, “As provided under the HPA, no civil penalty or disqualification of show management from managing a horse show in the future would be imposed on show management for permitting the showing or exhibition of a sore horse before show management is given notice and opportunity for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.” 

Prieto also confirmed, per the request by the letter from Wilson on August 10, that the USDA personnel would conduct lawful inspections.  “USDA remains committed to using scientifically sound methods and lawful inspection processes to effectively enforce the HPA.”

The Celebration met with its counsel, as well as received opinions from attorneys with knowledge of the HPA, and will continue to disqualify horses that are found not in compliance by either the DQP or the VMO just as they have done at every other Celebration that was affiliated with an HIO.  The Celebration is committed to upholding its responsibilities under the HPA and doing everything it can to ensure only sound horses compete at the 78th Annual Celebration.

The Celebration is also committed to protecting its exhibitors that are presenting and showing sound horses.  As The Celebration’s original letter from counsel requested, “APHIS will not conduct any type of unlawful inspection of a horse at the Celebration.”  We remain committed and supportive of a more scientific and objective inspection process that would remove much of the uncertainty and doubt regarding the current inspection protocols.

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