USDA withdraws 2016 proposal for amending the Horse Protection Act

The agency says it plans to issue strengthened regulations that incorporate more recent research.

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2021 — The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is announcing the withdrawal of a 2016 proposed rule that would have amended the Horse Protection Act (HPA) regulations. APHIS is making development of a new and improved HPA proposal a top regulatory priority. This action is being taken so that the Agency can evaluate and consider more recent findings and research and incorporate this information into a new proposed rule. This includes the results of a 2021 National Academies of Sciences (NAS) study, which examined the inspection methods used for identifying soreness in walking horses, new and emerging approaches for detecting pain, and use of the scar rule in determining compliance with the Horse Protection Act. The report also made a number of science-based recommendations that APHIS will consider regarding revisions to APHIS’ HPA program and associated regulations.

APHIS has determined that the proposed rule does not sufficiently address the report’s findings and believes that the underlying data on which the 2016 proposed rule is based should be updated. Following withdrawal of the 2016 proposed rule, APHIS intends to expeditiously issue a new proposed rule that will strengthen administration and enforcement of the Act by incorporating the latest science-based information.

The HPA is a Federal law, enforced by APHIS, that makes it unlawful for any person to show, exhibit, sell, or transport sore horses, or to use any equipment, device, paraphernalia, or substance prohibited by USDA to prevent the soring of horses in such events. APHIS works actively with the horse industry to eliminate such inhumane practices and the resulting unfair competition they create at HPA-covered events.

This action may be viewed in today’s Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/2021-26849/horse-protection-licensing-of-designated-qualified-persons-and-other-amendments.