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USDA Responds To Show

Editor's Note:  The Walking Horse Report is pleased to print the following letter fron Dr. Gipson to SHOW officials.  The Report requested permission from Dr. Gipson to print the letter and that request was granted today.



Dr. Doyle G. Meadows
Chief Executive Officer
P.O. Box 1010
Shelbyville, TN  37162

Dear Dr. Meadows:

This is in response to your letters of June 3 through July 23, 2009, in which you express multiple concerns about USDA officials' interpretation and enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and the regulations.

Please be assured that USDA is willing to work with you to resolve your concerns amicably. USDA is committed to having a productive relationship with all of its Horse Industry Organizations (HIOs). The HIOs have demonstrated their commitment to eliminating the cruel and inhumane practice of soring horses in order to alter their gait to gain a competitive advantage over competitors who comply with the HPA and the regulations. Accordingly, USDA will continue to work with you, other members of SHOW management, and your designated qualified persons (DQPs) to ensure that SHOW personnel are interpreting and following the HPA and the regulations properly, and to ensure that SHOW is committed to eliminating the cruel and inhumane practice of soring horses.

As you know, the cooperative enforcement partnership between USDA and HIOs has resulted in significant progress in eliminating the cruel and inhumane practice of soring horses. Although we continue to make progress, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to improve our soring detection procedures and HIO enforcement case adjudication procedures. Our joint training sessions on identifying sore horses have contributed to this effort and have been well received by both Veterinary Medical Officers (VMOs) and DQPs.

However, USDA does not relinquish its enforcement responsibilities or final decision-making authority under the HPA. USDA retains the final authority to institute enforcement proceedings any time it believes the purposes of the HPA are not being effectuated. Noncompliance by an HIO may result in decertification by USDA. SHOW has decided not to sign the Operating Plan. This decision by SHOW does not exempt it from its responsibilities under the HPA and the regulations.

We understand that you disagree with the letter of warning USDA recently issued to SHOW. While we believe the content of the letter requires no further explanation, we will take your comments under consideration, and we trust that you will provide the DQP in question with further training concerning soring detection methods and conflict resolution. Please be aware that refusal by a DQP to re-inspect a horse when requested by a VMO may result in a letter of warning to an HIO.

Dr. Doyle G. Meadows

Page 2

USDA also must clarify that any DQP who has provided private veterinary services for a specific horse or horse owner may not act as a DQP and inspect that horse, or any horse owned by the same owner, at a horse show. USDA also would appreciate being advised of DQP reassignments within 30 days of the scheduled horse show in order to facilitate proper recordkeeping and scheduling. Thank you for your courtesy in this matter.

USDA reviewed the DVD you sent us with your letter of July 23, 2009. Based on our review of the DVD, USDA determined that Dr. Johnson's inspection was in compliance with the HPA and the regulations. Additionally, the conversation between the SHOW DQP Coordinator Andy Messick and Dr. Johnson was misunderstood. According to Mr. Messick, the conversation related to the fact that the skin on a horse's pastern could not be flattened. At no time did Dr. Johnson instruct Mr. Messick to discontinue his attempt to attempt to flatten the skin on the horse's pastern. Video says otherwise.

Finally, your claim that Acting Administrator Kevin Shea received a complaint about Dr. Johnson, and assured the person who he spoke with that Dr. Johnson would be disciplined is inaccurate. Mr. Shea communicated with all of the VMOs and instructed them to continue to inspect horses in a professional, courteous, and proper manner at all times while carrying out their enforcement responsibilities under the HPA. In addition, Dr. Johnson was not relieved of his inspection duties at any time. Dr. Johnson will continue to perform his inspection duties in a professional, courteous, and proper manner at all times.

We hope this information is helpful, and USDA looks forward to working with SHOW to eliminate the cruel and inhumane practice of soring horses.


Chester A. Gipson Deputy Administrator Animal Care


David Howard, Celebration/SHOW, Shelbyville,TN Charles McDonald,
Celebration/SHOW,Shelbyville, TN
Andy Messick, Celebration/SHOW, Shelbyville,TN Kevin Shea, APHIS/OA, Washington DC
Andy Morgan, APHIS/AC, Riverdale, MD
Rachel Cezar, APHIS/AC, Riverdale, MD
Mike Tuck, APHIS/AC, Riverdale, MD


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