Amicus Brief Filed in HPA Penalty Case

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has filed an amicus brief, also known as a friend of the court brief, asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to uphold USDA regulations requiring that all Horse Industry Organizations (HIOs) impose mandatory minimum penalties on those who violate the Horse Protection Act by soring horses. Soring, forbidden by the HPA, is the deliberate injury to a horse's feet and legs to achieve an exaggerated, high-stepping gait.

Under the final rule which became effective in July, all USDA-certified HIOs must assess penalties that equal or exceed minimum levels, and must issue suspensions to anyone responsible for soring horses. The rule also forbids suspended individuals from showing horses, or from judging or managing horse shows. The rule also stiffens penalties for repeat HPA violators.

In June, Sound Horses, Honest Judging, Objective Inspections,Winning Fairly (SHOW), an HIO that manages Tennessee Walking Horse shows including the National Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration filed a complaint asking the federal court to block implementation of the mandatory penalty rule on grounds that the rule violates the U.S. Constitution because it forces private entities to impose penalties on horse show participants for violations of federal law.

In its amicus brief filed on Oct. 26, HSUS asked the court to uphold the mandatory minimum penalty rule on grounds that SHOW's constitutional arguments lack legal foundation.

"By challenging these regulations, the Walking Horse industry has made it clear that it has no interest in cleaning up its act and getting rid of the brutal practice of soring," said Jonathan Lovvorn, HSUS senior vice president for animal protection litigation.

In a written statement SHOW President Stephen Mullins, DVM, said that the HIO supports the penalties for HPA violators but disagrees with specifics of the penalty rule.

"We want penalties," Mullins said. "But this rule, as written, will open doors for soring trainers to evade punishment, something that we are firmly against as should all who care about the Walking Horse."

The court case remains pending.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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