AVMA, AAEP Urge Strong HPA Enforcement at TWH Celebration

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) are urging veterinarians, owners, trainers, riders, event spectators, the media, and the public to redouble their efforts to identify and report sored horses at this year's Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration currently under way in Shelbyville, Tenn. This includes reporting suspected soring activity in barns and training facilities in the Shelbyville area.

Additionally, to heighten awareness and address failures in industry self-policing, the presidents of the AVMA and AAEP are issuing a joint call-to-action encouraging all veterinarians to aggressively identify and report HPA violators, and support strong USDA enforcement.

For more than 40 years, the USDA has worked to enforce the Horse Protection Act (HPA), which prohibits soring. The USDA recently took another step toward ending soring by instituting mandatory penalties for violators. SHOW, a horse industry organization (HIO) that will be inspecting horses during this year's Celebration, is one of three HIOs for which the USDA is pursuing decertification, citing failure to comply with USDA mandatory penalties.

At the 2011 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, USDA swab tests on 52 horses resulted in 52 positive findings for foreign substances. According to the USDA, 37 of the 52 horses tested positive for one or more anesthetic agents. Anesthetic agents are frequently used to mask pain from soring during inspections.

In addition, three of the seven individuals listed as judges for this year's Celebration have been cited for soring violations in years past.

"Soring is a federal crime in addition to being a felony offense in Tennessee," said Doug Aspros, DVM, president of the AVMA. "It is up to each of us--veterinarians, inspectors, judges, owners, trainers, riders, and even spectators at these shows--to take responsibility for ending soring. There must be zero tolerance for this abuse. While soring clearly violates the Horse Protection Act, failing to report soring is also ethically and professionally indefensible. We urge anyone with concerns to contact the USDA and local law enforcement officials."

Report suspected cases of sored horses to Dr. Rachel Cezar, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Horse Protection Coordinator at 301/734-5784 or rachel.cezar@aphis.usda.gov. Locally, cases can be reported to the Shelbyville/Bedford County CrimeStoppers at 931/685-4300.

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