Many members of the horse industry know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently proposed changes to the regulations governing enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA). The HPA was passed in 1970 to stop the cruel practice of "soring" horses that was occurring in some parts of the Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse and Spotted Saddle Horse industry.
The proposed rule would make several changes to current HPA regulations with the goal of improving enforcement of the law and ending soring. However, the proposed rule has prompted some questions about its potential impact on the wider industry, particularly on other gaited breeds. The AHC has convened an HPA working group and has been engaging industry stake holders to answer some of these questions and draft formal comments regarding the proposed rule. The AHC has been actively communicating with industry groups including the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the U.S Equestrian Federation, the American Saddlebred Horse Association, the American Morgan Horse Association, and the Arabian Horse Association.
"The AHC has always opposed soring and supported the enforcement of the HPA. There is no question that soring is an abusive practice that should not be tolerated or allowed to continue. Because soring continues to be a problem in the Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse and Spotted Saddle Horse industry, improvements to the HPA enforcement program are clearly needed and justified, "said AHC President Julie Broadway.
"However, it is equally important that any new regulations are narrowly focused on the problem of soring and do not adversely impact or unnecessarily burden other segments of the horse show industry that are not soring horses and have no history of soring horses."
The USDA has been holding public meetings around the country and will be accepting written comments until September 26, 2016. USDA will then review all comments and make changes based on those comments before releasing a final rule.
"Any time regulatory changes are proposed there is always a need to seek clarifications and make improvements. This is why federal agencies seek comments before any rule is made final," said AHC Sr. VP, Policy & Legislative Affairs Ben Pendergrass. "The AHC's HPA working group is drafting comprehensive comments on the proposed rule that will hopefully help USDA improve the rule and address any concerns the horse industry has about the rule. "
The AHC will continue to keep the horse industry updated as the rulemaking process continues.
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.