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USDA Says Step Up and Do Your Job Or We Will



Copyright WHR 2006

By Christy Howard Parsons

Dr. Chester Gipson, Deputy Administrator for Animal Care of the United States Department of Agriculture, challenged the Tennessee Walking Horse industry to clean up their act in closing comments at the USDA Listening Session held today at the Blue Ribbon Circle Club in Shelbyville, Tenn.

“You are at the crossroads. You need to decide which way you are going to go. You can step up and do your job, or you put us in the position where we are forced to do it for you…We will enforce the Regulations, and more than that we will make sure that the animals are treated the way they are supposed to be treated,” concluded Dr. Gipson.

Dr. Todd Behre, Horse Protection Coordinator for Animal Care began the meeting with a summary of his thoughts on the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. Complete coverage of Dr. Behre's presentation is in a separate story in Walking Horse Report and to be posted on Walking Horse Report Online. But his straightforward, detailed presentation left little for interpretation.

He presented statistics from 2005 regarding analysis of samples taken by the “sniffer” which indicated that in the samples taken at the 2005 Tennnessee Walking Horse National Celebration 54% of the samples indicated the presence of an illegal substance, most commonly numbing agents. Samples from the 2005 Kentucky Celebration indicated that 100% of the samples taken indicated the presence of diesel fuel or another similar fuel plus numbing agents.

“The incidence of prohibited substances was much higher than I thought it was,” said Dr. Behre. Behre further explained that his promise not to prosecute cases in 2004-2005 with evidence obtained from the sniffer had expired. “In 2006, the USDA will swab to take samples for the sniffer at all the horse shows they attend,” he said. In 2005, the USDA attended 39 horse shows to conduct inspections. Dr. Behre later clarified to the Report that he will not begin using that evidence in prosecutions until he notifies people that the USDA plans to do so.

Behre also indicated that he was aware of the problem of substituting horses in inspection, of taking “designated inspection horses” and switching them for a horse intended for the show ring.

The Listening Session then took place where half a dozen members of the audience made their points to the USDA. While the session was intended to be to hear comments and suggestions regarding the Horse Protection Act, two of the six comments that were made were in regard to the Slaughter Bill which has been a recent hot topic for the USDA.

Five more members of the audience asked questions fielded by Dr. Behre regarding information from his presentation before Dr. Gipson concluded the session with his comments. Complete coverage of the listening session will follow.

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