Prior to the filing of any legislation amending the Horse Protection Act (HPA), Dr. Chester Gipson, APHIS Deputy Administrator made comments in February 2012 at the Walking Horse Owners’ Association (WHOA) meeting that are found in H.R. 4098.  Dr. Gipson is the person within the USDA charged with enforcement of the HPA.  The Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2014, was filed by Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn.

In 2012 Dr. Gipson stated, “Doing away with the DQP program would be a disaster for the USDA and for the industry however the effect of that recommendation is that individuals serving as DQPs do not need to have a conflict of interest.  The primary area of enforcement should be within the industry but the USDA will take on the responsibility of training and licensing the DQPs as part of this recommendation from the OIG.”

Blackburn’s legislation calls for the abolishment of the current Horse Industry Organization (HIO) system that has multiple HIOs and creates a single, independent HIO that leaves the primary area of enforcement within the industry with USDA oversight.  Blackburn’s legislation also makes it a requirement of anyone licensed by the HIO to be free of any industry conflicts.

Gipson also commented, “You need a system where all horses are being checked by the same standard.”  He later stated, “Science drives the regulatory process.”  Blackburn’s legislation requires all inspections in the industry to follow the same standard.  That standard is an objective, science-based inspection protocol that will produce scientifically accepted, reproducible results and ensure compliance with the HPA.  Violators of that protocol will be punished immediately through the HIO and will be subject to USDA prosecution.

In contrast to Blackburn’s legislation is the Humane Society of the Unites States sponsored legislation introduced by Congressman Ed Whitfield, whose wife Connie Harriman-Whitfield is a lobbyist with the Humane Society.  This legislation abolishes the HIO system and turns complete enforcement of the HPA over to the USDA, in direct contrast to Dr. Gipson’s recommendations.  The HSUS/Whitfield legislation also leaves in place the current subjective, non-science based inspection protocols.

The HSUS has a long track record of damaging animal agriculture and rural communities with their legislative endeavors.  The Whitfield bill is no different as small rural communities will lose their horse shows and charitable dollars with HSUS language in the Whitfield bill that eliminates all weighted shoes, pads and action devices and 85% of the divisions of the Tennessee Walking Horse.

A USDA spokesperson clarified that Dr. Chester Gipson had no opinion on this legislation.