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Rep. DesJarlais Questions USDA's Shea on Walking Horse Inspections

Earlier today, Congressman Scott DesJarlais, M.D. (TN-04) questioned Kevin Shea, Administrator with USDA, on the issues regarding the lack of objectivity in the inspection process of Tennessee Walking Horses.  Shea did admit during the questioning that the industry has improved and that the industry in its current form should be allowed to continue.

Shea was not informed of the statistics in inspection prior to the hearing so he was not able to explain fully why his inspectors found nearly 10 times the number of violations for scar rules at The Celebration versus earlier in the year.  Shea mentioned that soring and scarring could occur during the year and “would be more apparent and easier to see at The Celebration.”  Shea also mentioned that since the stakes are higher at the Celebration, it has been the USDA’s experience that owners and trainers are more willing to try and get a horse that has been sored through inspection.

When asked if a biopsy taken of a horse would be an objective measure of whether a horse has a scar or not, Shea agreed that if a biopsy showed no signs of a scar that is something the USDA should look at.  At last year’s Celebration, all of biopsies taken of the horses disqualified by USDA for scarring came back with no signs of any scar tissue.

Shea also admitted, despite claims from his VMOs and personnel at The Celebration to the contrary, that thermography is not a tool that can identify a scar.  Shea stated, “Thermography indicates where a scar may be.”  There has been no study or published peer-reviewed document that would validate Mr. Shea’s claim on thermography.

To view Rep. DesJarlais questioning Kevin Shea click here.

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