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Rep. DesJarlais Introduces Bill to Amend HPA



Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-4) introduced a bill to amend the Horse Protection Act (HPA) that would eliminate the current inconsistent and subjective inspection methods and replace them with objective, science-based inspections.  The new protocols for inspection would be based upon expert veterinarian input and be administered by a single industry enforcement entity, Horse Industry Organizations under the HPA.  Currently the HPA is enforced by multiple HIOs that all have different rules and enforcement guidelines.

“The Tennessee Walking Horse industry is a vital part of our nation’s agricultural sector. However, recent abuses on behalf of APHIS have threatened the proliferation and success of this Tennessee tradition. The Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2015 provides real reforms ensuring objective, science-based methods of inspection and testing. We cannot punish the industry as a whole for the behavior of a few bad actors. I am dedicated to preserving this important piece of Tennessee history and will continue to fight for clearer, more consistent policies across the industry,” said DesJarlais.

The bill introduced by DesJarlais, H.R. 4105, is the same legislation introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-7) in the previous Congress and Rep. Blackburn is a co-sponsor of the legislation in this Congress.  All of the other Tennessee Republicans also are co-sponsors, including Phil Roe (R-TN-1), Jimmy Duncan (R-TN-2), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN-3), Diane Black (R-TN-6) and Stephen Fincher (R-TN-8).  House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY-5) and Andy Barr (R-KY-6) are original co-sponsors from Kentucky.

The inconsistency in inspections, conducted by both the USDA Veterinary Medical Officers and industry Designated Qualified Persons, has severely damaged the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.  In a recent opinion against the rulemaking efforts of the USDA, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out this fact calling inspections, “more art than science,” and acknowledging that current inspection protocols lead to many false positives.

The new bill would enact protocols that are “conducted using only inspection methods based on science-based protocols (including swabbing or blood testing protocols) that – 
(A) have been the subject of testing and are capable of producing scientifically reliable, reproducible results;
(B) have been subjected to peer review; and
(C) have received acceptance in the veterinary or other applicable scientific community.”

The HIO formed by the legislation will issue policies requiring any person licensed with the HIO or an immediate family member of such person to be free from conflicts of interest or any association with the industry.  The HIO would be governed initially by a board consisting of the following:
(A) Two individuals each appointed by the Commissioners of Agriculture of Tennessee and Kentucky
(B) Two individuals representing the industry by the above four persons in consultation with the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association
(C) Not more than three individuals shall be appointed by the six individuals above
       
The need for DesJarlais’ legislation was further evidenced by inspections conducted at this year’s Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn.  The horses disqualified from competition by USDA VMOs that passed inspection by industry DQPs at this year’s Celebration had previously passed inspection 750 times in 2015 prior to The Celebration.  Those same horses that were disqualified have shown and passed inspection with both industry DQPs and USDA VMOs present 102 times since the completion of The Celebration just over two months ago.
 

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