Of course, everyone wants to see soring come to an end. But as a recent USDA Horse Protection Act amendment has made the rounds of "listening sessions" in different parts of the country, it has become obvious that the amendment contains some "gray" language that might affect other breeds beyond the Walking horse and its directly-related breeds.
Moreover, the amendment would hold the Walking horse to a higher standard than other breeds, which operate under rules allowing pads and weighted shoes.
NOTE: USDA has extended the comment period on the proposed amendment until October 26. USDA will review all comments and release a final rule.
The proposed rule has been published in the Federal Register and can be viewed here: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/07/26/2016-17648/horse-protection-licensing-of-designated-qualified-persons-and-other-amendments
This week, the American Horse Council (AHC), as well as several other organizations, issued an updated statement to show that it is aware of the possible confusion over the amendment's language. The statement is printed here, verbatim, for your information:
(Washington, DC)- Many individuals in the horse industry are aware the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has published proposed changes to the regulations governing enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA). The proposed rule would make several major changes to current HPA regulations with the goal of ending soring, including a new licensing program for HPA inspectors and a ban on action devices, pads, weighted shoes and foreign substances at walking horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions.
The American Horse Council (AHC) strongly opposes soring and believes action must be taken to stop the soring of “big lick” Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses and Spotted Saddle Horses. However, the AHC is concerned that certain provisions of the proposed rule are too broadly written, not sufficiently defined, and could cause confusion for the horse show industry. Like all industries, the horse show industry requires clarity in any regulatory regime that impacts its operation. Soring is a problem that is well defined and limited to a very specific segment of the walking horse industry and any new regulations should reflect this fact.
The AHC’s formal comments to USDA will strongly urge USDA to explicitly limit all new provisions to Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses, and Spotted Saddle Horses, mirroring the PAST Act. Making this change will address most concerns the horse industry has with the proposed rule and will fulfill the purpose and intent of the HPA.
The AHC wants to be clear, many of the proposed changes to the HPA regulations are needed such as replacing the ineffective Designated Qualified Person (DQP) program with a new independent inspection program. Additionally, because of a long history of utilizing action devices, stacks, weighted shoes, and foreign substances to sore horses, a ban of these items on Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses, and Spotted Saddle Horses is justified and needed.
However, the AHC believes it is equally important that any new regulations be narrowly focused on the problem of soring and do not inadvertently impact or unnecessarily burden other segments of the horse show industry that have no history of soring horses.
The AHC will be submitting detailed written comments to USDA in the coming weeks.