Tennessee Walking Horse Organization Resists USDA Mandate

PRIDE, a Kentucky-based Tennessee Walking Horse Industry Organization (HIO), has declined to include new USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Horse Protection Act (HPA) enforcement regulations in its 2011 horse show rule book on the grounds that the mandate infringes on private entities' legal rights.

The HPA forbids soring, the deliberate injury to a horse's legs to achieve an exaggerated "big lick" gait. APHIS is tasked with enforcing the law. The act also authorizes the agency to certify licensed HIOs that meet HPA enforcement criteria.

The 2011 protocol sets minimum uniform penalties for scar rule, soring, use of foreign substances on horses, and failure to pass equipment and shoeing inspections. Earlier this year, APHIS informed HIO managers in writing that they must include a mandatory minimum penalty protocol in their 2011 horse show rule books, and they must submit their 2011 rule books for the agency's review by Dec. 1.

Last month, PRIDE informed the agency in writing that it is refusing to comply with the penalty protocol mandate.

"It's not that we're being defiant or that we don't want what's best for the horses," said Sam Hamilton, the director of PRIDE, "It's that an HIO is private entity, and I don't believe the USDA has the legal authority to mandate penalties to a private entity."

APHIS spokesman David Sacks confirmed that the agency received PRIDE's letter and that the agency would penalize HIOs that fail to adopt the mandatory protocol.

"HIO rule books are being reviewed currently," Sacks said. "It was explained to the HIOs that if the penalties do not meet USDA standards, they will be in violation of the HPA and its regulations, and they will face decertification."

The agency will follow up with each HIO by Jan. 1, 2011, Sacks said.

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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