FOSH and AHPA Respond to Fifth Circuit Decision on USDA Enforcement Efforts

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Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) and the American Horse Protection Association (AHPA) today responded on behalf of their memberships to the decision of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Contender Farms, LLP v. USDA. The decision struck down regulatory changes implemented by the USDA in 2012 to improve enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA). The 2012 regulation required that Horse Industry Organizations impose minimum penalties for violations of the HPA identified by the Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs) that they license to inspect horses for soring violations. FOSH and AHPA, joined by two other organizations opposed to soring practices, filed an amicus brief in the case that supported the USDA regulation.

FOSH President Teresa Bippen and AHPA Executive Director Robin Lohnes stated: “This decision emphasizes why the USDA’s decision to rely on horse industry self-regulatory efforts, rather than to implement a strong program of federal inspections and enforcement, has been a failure. The “big lick” elements of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry may claim that they want only sound horses in the show ring, but their celebration of this decision proves otherwise. We are concerned that these elements will use the decision not only to avoid punishing people who abuse horses, but to redouble their efforts to resist USDA’s efforts to end soring. In that sense, this decision is a travesty for the welfare of the horse and a major blow to the interests of all owners, breeders, trainers and exhibitors who have fought for so many years to ensure that show horse competition is both humane and fair.”

Bippen and Lohnes called on USDA to re-examine its regulatory approach in light of the decision. They said: “Trying to enforce the HPA through the current DQP system is no longer an option for USDA. Marginal improvements of the DQP system are not enough to ensure that soring will be eradicated--even if those improvements were supported by all elements of the industry and implemented effectively. USDA must fulfill its 2010 commitment to replace the current system with inspectors that are licensed by and answerable to the agency, and must aggressively strengthen its civil enforcement actions against persons who have sored horses.”

Soring is the cruel and deliberate infliction of chemical or mechanical pain upon a horse’s hooves and limbs to create an unnatural, exaggerated, high stepping gait for the show ring. Soring is a major animal abuse issue that has been illegal for over forty years under the federal HPA, yet the practice is still widespread in some show rings.

AHPA is a national humane organization devoted exclusively to equine welfare, promoting the humane treatment of all horses, both wild and domestic. Since the late 1960s, AHPA has opposed the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds, and supported the vigorous enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and its regulations through legislative, legal and regulatory means.

FOSH is a national leader in the promotion of natural, sound gaited horses and actively fights against abuse and soring of Tennessee Walking Horses. For more information about FOSH, the only national organization that represents multiple gaited breeds, or to become a member, please visit www.fosh.info.