USDA: Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act Enforcement Announced

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) continues to move swiftly and consistently to take enforcement action in response to animal welfare violations. As part of its effort to make its actions transparent and accessible to the public, APHIS is highlighting enforcement actions taken in response to violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act (HPA).

Copies of documents related to these actions, as well as copies of official warnings, are available in the APHIS FOIA Reading Room.

The AWA requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. It excludes those animals raised for food or fiber. Persons who operate facilities in these categories must provide their animals with adequate care and treatment in the areas of housing, handling, sanitation, nutrition, water, veterinary care, and protection from extreme weather and temperatures.

To ensure that its licensees are meeting the AWA standards, APHIS inspectors conduct routine, unannounced inspections of all licensed facilities. AWA violations can lead to penalties, including official warnings, civil penalties, and license suspensions/revocations. For more information on the inspection and enforcement processes, visit APHIS' animal care website.

The HPA is the federal law that prohibits horses subjected to a practice called soring from participating in shows, sales, exhibitions, and auctions. Soring is considered an abusive practice used to accentuate a horse's gait. APHIS works actively with the horse industry to protect against such abuse, ensuring that only sound and healthy horses participate in shows, sales, exhibitions, and auctions. APHIS' ultimate goal is to end the practice of soring completely.

The HPA authorizes APHIS to issue civil penalties and to disqualify violators from participating in horse shows, exhibitions, and sales. Both the AWA and HPA contain criminal penalties as well.

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