USDA Clarifies Soring Penalty Rule

Individuals suspended for Horse Protection Act (HPA) violations by one Horse Industry Organization (HIO) can participate in equine events managed by another, according to a final rule clarification issued by Chester A. Gipson, DVM, deputy administrator of Animal Care for the USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS).

APHIS enforces the HPA--which prohibits "soring" the deliberate injury to a horse's feet and legs to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping gait--and certifies HIOs that manage horse shows and other events. On June 7 APHIS published a final penalty rule requiring all APHIS-certified HIOs to stiffen penalties for HPA violators.

In his June 28 clarification memo, Gipson said that violators suspended under the rule are prevented from participating in horse shows and events affiliated with the HIO that issued the suspension, but may participate in events affiliated with other HIOs.

"HIOs and show managers can still choose to honor suspensions issued by other HIOs as many currently do," the memo read. "Additionally, all HIOs and show managers are required under the HPA to recognize USDA federal disqualification periods."

Teresa Bippen, spokesperson for the HIO Friends of Sound Horses declined immediate comment on the clarification memo.

In a written statement issued by Jane Lynch Crain, director and spokeswoman of the recently formed independent Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization, said the clarification contradicts USDA rules.

"The USDA's action just sent a message to those who harm horses that if they get caught, they can go somewhere else and keep showing," the statement said. "Not only does the USDA's action today stall reform efforts to rid the industry of bad actors, more importantly, it puts the wellbeing of horses at risk."

APHIS Spokesman David Sacks said the memo simply clarified how HPA suspensions will be issued.

"We are not lessening any agreements that the horse industry organizations already have in place," Sacks said. "The memo clearly states that HIOs and show managements can honor other HIOs’ suspensions, as is currently the case."

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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