U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., introduced H.R. 6388, the Horse Protection Act (HPA) Amendments of 2012, Sept. 13, amidst continued soring violations and the notice of decertification of horse industry organizations by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service(APHIS).
A joint release by Reps. Whitfield and Cohen states the amendment to the 40-year-old HPA will provide additional protection to prohibit the soring of horses. The amendment eliminates self-policing by requiring the USDA to assign a licensed inspector to horse shows if management indicates its intent to hire one, although hiring a licensed inspector is not mandated. The use of action devices is prohibited and penalties are increased for anyone caught soring a horse under the proposed legislation.
The release says an audit by the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Horse Protection Act Program found that trainers in the industry often go to great lengths to evade detection, rather than comply with federal law and train horses using humane methods.
The horse industry organization (HIO) SHOW, which provided inspections at the 74th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn., in August, has publicly refused to comply with the USDA’s own recent amendments to the HPA requiring HIOs to assess minimum penalties for violations. SHOW, PRIDE and the Heart of American Walking Horse Association have all been given notice of decertification if they do not comply with the USDA.
USDA spokesman Dave Sacks told DVM Newsmagazine Friday that the USDA has not taken a formal position on the legislation at this time. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) have stood firmly behind the USDA in its efforts to eradicate soring. The AVMA is scheduled to meet with the undersecretary of the USDA Oct. 1 to discuss soring and regulatory oversight.
A DVM Newsmagazine request for comment from the Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization (TWSHO) regarding H.R. 6388 has yet to be answered.