Buyers to be Surveyed on Mandatory Disclosure of Surgeries

Thousands of Thoroughbred buyers soon will be receiving surveys asking what they think about the mandatory disclosure of surgeries that cause permanent changes in the conformation of sale horses.

Distribution of the questionnaires was scheduled to begin the week of April 17. The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) provided funding for the survey, which is being conducted by the Matrix Group.

Surgeries that result in permanent changes in conformation include transphyseal bridging and periosteal elevations. The mandatory disclosure of such procedures is a requirement of the Sales Integrity Program's code of ethics that was developed in 2004 by a task force organized by TOBA in response to complaints about the auction business.

However, the monitoring committee, which was created by the task force to oversee the code of ethics, delayed the implementation of the surgical disclosure provision last year after some consignors expressed concerns about how information about surgical procedures would be collected and managed. Some sellers also questioned whether the surgical information was something buyers really wanted.

The survey is a response to criticism that the decision about surgical disclosure was being made by a small number of people, TOBA president Dan Metzger said. Discussions involving the monitoring committee, Bayne Welker and Mark Taylor of the Consignors and Commercial Breeders Association (CBA), and others resulted in TOBA taking action to question buyers, Metzger said.

Surveys will be sent to 2,500 to 4,000 buyers at all levels of the market. Metzger hopes work on the project can be completed in two to three months.

Welker, president and chairman of the CBA, said leadership of the organization asked its members to have information about surgical procedures available for buyers, and to keep records of how often they received requests for the information.

"It was a very low number," he said, and the CBA reported its finding to the monitoring committee.

"We haven't really seen an outcry from the buying public (for disclosure)," Welker said. "But if the buyers say, 'Yes, we want it,' then of course it needs to be done."

Welker said several subcommittees involved with the Sales Integrity Program have been working to address the issues associated with the disclosure of surgeries. One possibility for keeping track of surgical information is a Web-based data system, he said.

About the Author

Deirdre Biles

Deirdre Biles is the Bloodstock Sales Editor for The Blood-Horse magazine.

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