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Letters to the Editor



Dear Christy:

knowing your interest in he walkinghorse industry, I wanted to make ou aware of some recent developments. As you know, negotiations regarding the regulatory process have been going on for several years, and temendous progress has been made. I am pleased that, if fact, very few issues of contention remain.

As a follow-up to our February meeting with Undersecretary, William Hawks, the attached letter was sent in an effort to continue the process of reaching an agreement on matters left unsolved.

June 14, 2002

The Honorable William Hawks
Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs
The United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-0002

Dear William,
It has been several months since our February 8 meeting with the leaders of the walking horse industry, and I wanted to obtain a status report on the issues we raised at out meeting with you and your colleagues at the Department.

The first issue raised at the February 8 meeting involved establishing a better policy for assessing penalties for a violation of the Scar Rule. The Scar Rule is a unique regulatory provision which identifies and penalizes potential soring conduct in the recent or distant past. As horses are sold and transferred among different owners, you can have a situation in which the current owner is being penalized for the conduct of a previous owner. For this reason, the industry is advocating a penalty that "follows the horse". Under this proposed system, the owner, trainer and exhibitor would not be assessed a subsequent Scar Rule Penalty (i.e. second, third, or forth offense) unless it is with the same horse as a first violation. We understand that this issue is under review in the Office of the General Counsel and we urge you to expedite the Department's review of this proposed policy on Scar Rule penalties.

The second issue we raised involved the conduct of a particular USDA Veterinary Medical Officer, Dr. Michael Guedron. From what I have observed, the industry has made an effort to approach their concern's about Dr. Guedron's conduct at horse shows he attends in a constructive manner. However, Dr. Guedron's presence at two shows this season, one in Tennessee and one in Arkansas, caused 75% of the participants to leave the show grounds and refuse to show their horses. No other department official receives this type of response. In fact, industry regulators work well with almost all of the other VMOs sent to shows around the country.

I have just received the results of the Department's most recent investigation of Dr, Guedron and Dr. Scott Price, a second VMO, and I urge you to review this report yourself. While the author of the report attempts to explain Dr. Guedrons demeanor and attitude as being part of the pressures of the job, the industry does not have similar problems with other VMOs outside of the two which are under investigation by the Department. While these two veterinarians may be technically competent, the fact is that their attitude towards the industry makes it difficult to create and sustain a cooperative regulatory partnership to enforce the Horse Protection Act. As the report indicates, "it will be incumbent on the program to take some action with regard to (these) individual (s) if it does not wish the issue to remain a continuing distraction."

My constituents also have not heard from the Department on the industry's suggestions for digital palpation procedures abd minimim standards for department inspectors who are veterinarians.

A great deal of progress has been made over the past five years to improve enforcement of the Horse Protection Act at walking horse shows, and I am confident that we can resolve the issues addressed here in a more effective manner for the benefit of the entire regulatory program.

At your conveniance, I would greatly appreciate an update on all of these issues that are so important to my constituents and the proper enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. I do appreciate your leadership on these issues and stand ready to work with you in any way I can.

Sincerely,
BART GORDON
Member of Congress

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