The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed a new rule in the Federal Register on July 26, 2016, to strengthen the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, which would eliminate self-regulation in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, as well as eliminate the use of all pads, action devices or hoof bands. While the rule was intended to apply to the Tennessee Walking Horse and Racking Horse industries, and “related breeds that perform an accentuated gait,” broad language throughout the proposed rule raises concern about those intentions.
American Saddlebred Horse Association representatives Bill Whitley, Rob Byers and Sandra Currier attended the August 10 listening session in Lexington. Newly elected President of the American Farriers’ Association Jon Johnson was also in attendance in Lexington and gave comments opposing the proposed rule. The impact of the new rules would be harmful to farriers and the currently allowed shoeing regulations in the Horse Protection Act have been proven by the USDA and other studies to cause no harm to horses.
Political leaders from Kentucky including Congressman Hal Rogers, Congressman Andy Barr, Senator Mitch McConnell, and Senator Rand Paul all sent representatives to be in attendance in opposition to the USDA’s proposed rule. Rep. Rogers is Chairman of Appropriations and Senator McConnell is Senate Majority Leader.
The official USDA comment period on the new rule expires on September 26, 2016, although ten Congressmen have asked for but not yet received permission for a 60 day extension of that comment period. The comment period is important because once that comment period ends, stakeholders cannot introduce any new positions or facts in subsequent law suits or challenges to the proposed rule. The court is constrained to the public record developed in the rulemaking proceeding when reviewing the rule.
The full text of the proposed rule can be read at https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection.
The American Horse Council has issued a statement regarding the proposed rule that includes, “only certain segments of Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse and Spotted Saddle Horses have a continuing problem with soring and a history of soring. No other breeds or disciplines have a problem with soring or have ever been cited for violations of the HPA. Any final rule should not, unintentionally or otherwise, impose unnecessary regulatory burdens on the wider horse show industry.”
The American Morgan Horse Association has issued a statement, “First and foremost, the American Morgan Horse Association, Inc. supports the responsible breeding and ownership of horses and is pro-welfare of the horse. However, USDA’s pending proposals (as currently written) regarding the Horse Protection Act, are NOT endorsed by the AMHA Board of Directors. The Board would like to assure the membership that AMHA is actively pursuing the proper adjustments to these proposals by working closely with the American Horse Council to suggest acceptable modifications.
Leadership of the American Saddlebred Horse Association, United Professional Horseman’s Association and United States Equestrian Federation are also closely following the regulations and more statements and comments will follow in future issues of The Saddle Horse Report.