APHIS Seeks Anti-Soring Rule Change

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has developed a new rule intended to strengthen the Horse Protection Act (HPA), which prohibits soring (the deliberate injury to a horses’ feet and legs to achieve an exaggerated, high-stepping gait) and places USDA-APHIS in charge of enforcing the law.

Tanya Espinoza, APHIS spokeswoman, declined to reveal the specific language of the proposed rule because it remains under study by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB, which reviews the procedures of federal agencies to see if they comply with presidential policy). She did say the proposed rule would make certain changes to existing HPA regulations with the aim of decreasing the rate of noncompliance, and would allow the agency to focus investigative resources on other important cases.

“Congress charged USDA with enforcing the HPA and eliminating the abusive practice of soring, which, in turn would restore fair competition and sales within the gaited horse industry,” Espinoza said. “However, soring remains a problem within the Walking Horse industry.”

In developing the proposed rule, the agency considered a 2010 Office of the Inspector General report that found the existing regulations—which require Horse Industry Organizations to hire and train inspectors to identify sore horses at industry-sponsored shows—effective.

Teresa Bippen, president of Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH), said any USDA APHIS effort to enhance HPA enforcement is welcome.

“Since 2012, FOSH has strongly encouraged the USDA to issue new regulations to close loopholes in the existing system,” she said. “While FOSH does not know the exact regulatory modifications submitted by the USDA, (we) stands firmly committed to supporting changes designed to end soring and protect the Tennessee Walking Horse from continued abuse."

Rory Williams, interim executive director of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association, was not available for comment on the proposed rule.

Once the OMB review is complete, the proposed rule will be published and made available for public comment, Espinoza 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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