Posted March 1, 2002
WASHINGTON, DC - In a meeting yesterday with the official responsible for the animal inspection programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rep. Van Hilleary voiced his concerns about the way in which the USDA regulates the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Complaints that inspectors can be arbitrary and inconsistent have been widespread among many owners of Tennessee Walking Horses.

In his meeting with USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Bill Hawks, Hilleary asked that the USDA to review its rules for horse shows. "The walking horse industry cannot thrive in an environment where standards and what is expected of them change from show to show," said Hilleary. "We have got to make sure the USDA's regulations are sensible, fair and evenly applied."

Hilleary is optimistic the regulatory environment for horse shows will improve. "I am very pleased with the outcome of our conversation," said Hilleary. "The USDA was receptive to our concerns, and I believe they will work with all parties involved to find solutions that are fair and consistent."

Hawks noted the USDA will work to ensure confidence in the regulatory process. "We want to make sure we maintain a balance between having good horse shows and protecting horses," said Hawks. "Working together with everyone involved, I believe we can strike the proper balance."

"Congressman Hilleary and I had a productive meeting," said Hawks. "He gave me a lot of insight on the perspective of horse owners. I look forward to working with him to find solutions. I recognize the importance of the horse show industry to Tennessee. We are all working together to ensure a successful season."

"The Tennessee Walking Horse industry is very important to our state," said Hilleary. "It is very important economically and it is a significant part of our heritage. I am optimistic this Department of Agriculture will work with us to create an environment in which the industry can grow and prosper."