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PLEASE READ - USDA Clarifies Horse Protection Stance



By Christy Howard Parsons

Copyright WHR 2007

Editor’s Note: The Walking Horse Report has been provided a copy of a letter from the United States Department of Agriculture to all Horse Industry Organizations. The purpose of the letter is to clarify any misconceptions about the regulatory responsibility and penalties associated with the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act.

To: All HIOs

June 22, 2007

The purpose of this letter is to clarify any misconceptions about the regulatory responsibility and penalties associated with the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA). The roles and responsibilities for signatory and non signatory Horse Industry Organizations (HIOs) have not changed. However, due to some misunderstanding within the industry, I find it important to clarify the expectations of the USDA for the enforcement of penalties within the industry.

When a horse is found in violation of the HPA, HIOs that are signatories to the Horse Protection Operating Plan (OP) may impose penalties as outlined in that plan, and USDA will not initiate a Federal Case against the owner, trainer and exhibitor except under very exceptional circumstances. For purposes of HPA enforcement, a horse with a scar is a sore horse. As a signatory to the OP, HIOs have voluntarily agreed to the duties and responsibilities defined in the OP.

Under the OP, APHIS agrees to sub-delegate to the signatory HIOs the initial enforcement responsibility for affiliated shows, exhibitions, sales, and auction. This means the USDA has allowed the signatory HIOs to employ uniform and effective inspection procedures and to penalize conduct violative of the HPA and regulations and has decided that it will not institute enforcement under the HPA if a signatory HIO's enforcement actions satisfy the requirements of the OP and fulfill the purposes of the HPA. The USDA maintains authority to enforce the HPA when a signatory HIO fails to properly enforce violations of the HPA or apply the appropriate penalty.

HIOs that are not signatories to the OP, must solely fall under the purview of the HPA and Regulations. Without the OP, the USDA maintains the primary role for the enforcement of the HPA and will initiate Federal Cases against owners, trainers and exhibitors associated with any horse found not to be in compliance with the HPA and the Regulations. This is regardless of any industry penalty imposed by the HIO.

I applaud those in the industry that have worked hard to end the cruel and inhumane practice of soring. It is my hope that the industry will continue this effort.

Sincerely,

Chester A Gipson

Deputy Administrator

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