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USDA Leaves SHOW Training



The SHOW HIO held its annual DQP training on January 16-17 in Shelbyville, Tenn.  In attendance at the training was Dr. Jeff Baker from USDA-APHIS.  Also in attendance at this year’s training were representatives of Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ (R-TN) office who sought clarification to the ambiguity of the enforcement of the HPA and the disagreement of USDA-APHIS personnel and SHOW HIO personnel when inspecting horses.

During the two-day training many questions centered around the “scar rule” and how it is applied by VMOs in the field versus how it is defined in the HPA.  Dr. Baker was specifically asked during the training if he followed the protocol of using both thumbs to see if the epithelial tissue would flatten and thus not constitute a scar rule violation.  Baker admitted he did not use this method nor was that necessary. But it was pointed out in a letter by Kevin Shea, USDA-APHIS Administrator, that this was the proper method, Baker began to change his stance.

In that letter Shea states, “inspectors are instructed to spread the skin on the pastern to determine if what appears to be a scar is uniformly thickened epithelium…because the visual appearance of the tissue alone does not indicate a scar rule violation, the tissue must also be examined by palpation.”  He also included, “uniformly thickened skin that can be flattened or smoothed out on palpation is not considered to be a scar.”  Click here to view the letter from Shea.

During the training, Baker admitted that the HPA was not black and white and USDA had a panel that looked at all of the information taken on violations at horse shows and decided which of those to turn over for possible prosecution under the HPA.  Information taken on horses at horse shows inspected by USDA does not constitute a violation of the HPA yet does disqualify the horse from competition.

Due to the questions and information from DesJarlais’ office that contradicted the training being conducted by Baker, he decided during the on-site examination of horses that he would not touch any of the horses nor could he continue the training.  According to multiple sources at the training, Baker admitted there was nothing he could say at the training that was going to change any of the information presented and that maybe he was training them incorrectly and there was no need to go any further with the training.

At that point, SHOW HIO Head DQP Mitchell Butler conducted the remainder of the training.  Baker also admitted to Butler that some type of resolution was needed prior to inspections beginning at horse shows.

During the training, Baker did inform SHOW that the “Eye Scanning” to identify the proper identity of the horse would be moved to the end of the inspection rather than at the beginning which has been the protocol.  Many industry representatives and Members of Congress have questioned the targeting of certain horses and exhibitors by USDA personnel from use of the eye scanning prior to the inspection of the horse.  Baker also confirmed that custodians of horses in inspection will be allowed to videotape those inspections.
 

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