"Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are known throughout the industry
as the breed that shows abused and tortured horses."

~ Jim Heird, Ph.D., Do Right By The Horse, February 2010

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

RESEARCH - Q&A From USDA Stakeholder's Meeting May 27, 2011: Part 2

Continued from the previous post...

Now, first, I want to comment that I'm hearing that people are saying the USDA did not answer the questions and/or were not prepared. Of course, this comes from the side that still wants soring to continue. We need to remember that this meeting was to discuss the proposed rules only, NOT FOR ANYTHING ELSE. Second, we cannot expect the USDA to have every little tidbit of fact in front of them to refer to when dealing with the HPA and the industry in general. Third, if they had answered all of the questions that were not related to the proposal, then questions that were related to the proposal may not have been asked in the time alloted for the meeting.

And of course those who are against these rules didn't like the answers. They were the truth and to the point, and the truth hurts. I think the industry should read the answers for what they are and take them seriously rather than just poo-pooing anything the USDA says. I will say this again and again: the industry has caused the USDA to be on their backs by not eliminating soring. It is their fault it is happening, and it's high time they start working with the USDA rather than fighting against it at every turn. Ask yourselves this: do you want the TWH industry to continue? If you do, then stop soring your horses. Period. It's not a hard choice to make.

Now on to the next set of questions and answers from the meeting.


Q8: I'm curious to find out why this is being proposed to the public. I think you guys know what you're going to hear; the people who are opposed to it will be violently and vehemently opposed to it, people who are for it are going to be for it. I don't see where there is a gray area. I do believe that the USDA has given this industry multiple chances to clean up their act, and they haven't done it and they're not going to do it themselves. In my opinion I believe that enforcing these penalties is more important than asking their opinion. So I'm curious as to why that's happening.
A8: The the reasoning why that we are having this out as a proposed rule is that it is a process outlined by the Administrative Procedures Act and we are required to have it done this way. we also did want to make sure that we received um comments from our stakeholders as well as from the general public.

I think this answer goes back to the answer for Q2. They need to put this out as a proposal by the APA and they did not do so to begin with. However, to reiterate, this does not negate the requirement for the new procedures to be in the rulebooks; the HIOs are still required to change their rulebooks or get decertified.

Q9: Are you going to better define the difference between a callus and a blemish for the scar rule?
A9: This is not a issue we're going to deal with in our discussion today.

Again, this meeting was to discuss the new proposed rules ONLY, not anything else.

Q10: After the first of the year or maybe before the first of the year the department issued this same proposal of the same penalties. At that time the department said that they were going to be in the process of decertifying the HIOs that didn't add this to their rulebooks. Obviously there were HIOs that didn't. What's the purpose of reissuing a proposal that the HIOs won't put in the rulebook now at all?
A10: You're absolutely right. We started out mandating the penalty protocol. What we decided to do after looking at the regulation that was in question asked about where our authority was we said rather than issue it with all these questions we would go back and address all those issues and in the process we would be very transparent so everyone would know what was going on because we tried to work cooperatively with the industry and they resisted. And when they could not agree to the new protocol on their own or accept the USDA protocol, we chose to take a transparent process so everyone would know that this has been going on for 30 plus years as it was just indicated and that it's time for it to stop. And this is the first step in continuing the process of eliminating the cruelty and the inhumane treatment of the horse. We do intend to decertify those who do not follow what is being prescribed in the regulations and the final rule. That's part of the process.

There you have it: hey HIOs, better implement these new penalties or be decertified.

And thanks for pointing that out, Dr. Gipson. This has been going on for 30 plus years, and it needs to stop. And note that he is right--they tried to work with the industry and the industry resisted. The industry is digging its own grave here.

Q11: If a horse show refuses to hire an HIO but yet they hire AAEP vets to check and screen horses for being sore or compliant with the HPA and keep non-HPA compliant horses out of the ring, what is the department's plan to enforce this new proposal if it is passed to these horses that are rejected from the show ring from a horse show that does not affiliate with a HIO?
A11: The liability to the show management is to make sure there are no sore horses that are showing. If if the department ends up coming to a horse show and finds that a horse is sore that was shown, then the show management will have the liability of the violation that is found on that horse as well as any individual that is responsible for that horse.

The point here is that if a show is not affiliated with an HIO, then rather than the owner/trainer/etc. only be liable for the horse that is found sore, the entire show management will be liable. Show management shows responsibility by affiliating with HIOs that have accepted the rules as put forth by the USDA. If they don't do it, then they are responsible for the horses being sored and can also be fined. I think this in the HPA itself.

Q12: You said that you intend to decertify HIOs that refuse or fail to follow the penalty protocols and I'm not absolutely clear what time frame you are intending to look at those possible decertifications. Are you looking at taking that action only after this proposed rule making regulation goes into effect or would you look at that action sometime before the regs go into effect? And what time from following the closure of the 60 day comment period would you anticipate implementing these new regulations?
A12: All actions will take place after the regulations have been finalized and I cannot speculate on what time frame that might be.

Maybe in a way this means it's not too late for HIOs to still change their tune...? If so, I would say that the four HIOs would be wise to reconsider their choice in not accepting the new penalty protocol.
Q13: The ultimate authority at a horse show the ultimate responsibility of presenting the sore horses is it the show management or is it the HIO?
A13: The ultimate responsibility is show management. Um show management is liable of having any horses sore that are going to be shown. They are liable to have either a DQP to inspect the horses prior to the horses going into the ring in which they would work with the HIO to do that. If they do have a HIO doing that then show management will not be liable. That would basically put the responsibility on the individuals that have that horse that was found in violation of the HPA.

So, as I explained before, show management is "off the hook" so to say if they have hired an HIO.

Q14: I fail to understand how these new regulations are not going to be extremely prejudicial against the industry, hurt the industry, hurt sales of horses in the future to new people wanting to get into the industry. It is for this reason that I ask this question about how these new regs are not going to be in a direct opposition to what is in the federal law now that whatever is done to these horses should not hurt the industry.
A14: Again these regulations are not in direct opposition of what is in the federal regulations at all. I think we pointed out what the maximum penalties were under the allowed statute and these are far below that. But then I'll go back to my point. The regulation is about the welfare of the horse. And that's what we are addressing through these regulations: the welfare of the horse. They've been in place for 30 plus years and you are right if they haven't hurt the industry in 30 years, that's because they're hurting the horse. We're changing that.

This is not about YOU, sore horse industry! This is about upholding the law by taking care of the welfare of the horse! You are choosing to mess this up yourselves! I can guarantee you that your horses will be just as good and make just as much money in the show ring when they're sound than when they're sore. I hear the excuse that the horse needs to be exciting and flashy for people to come see it. Well, Western Pleasure Quarter Horses barely move around the ring and hardly move, yet millions of dollars are pumped into that division of the Quarter Horse industry every year. If you produce a good, sound product, then people will come see it. It's that simple. Promote the versatility of the breed. Focus on gaited horse dressage, reining, barrels, trail, endurance, and don't just rely on rail classes as your money makers. And take a look at how many entries you get at shows in the Trail Pleasure and Lite Shod classes. Those are the ones who keep you afloat. The industry claims that only 10 percent of horses are shown as Big Lick horses. Therefore, logic dictates that they can't be making you that much money. So why not eliminate them and concentrate on the areas where people will respect you and come to your shows? Do you realize the reason why you're losing money is because the whole world now knows your dirty secret AND knows that you won't make changes, so they're staying away from you? That's why you aren't getting new members and membership are dropping off, and why classes are getting smaller and smaller. You will catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar. You are destroying yourselves by destroying the horses.

Q15: Out of all the gaited breeds of horses in the U.S. I tried to study all the data and of all the gaited horses in the last 10 years that horses had to be put down due to show or training related injuries does not add up to one year of the thoroughbred industry. Yet the gaited horses is where you feel like where our biggest hurt is. can you shed some light on that for me?
A15: The only light I can shed on that is that our legal statutory does not cover racehorses. It only covers those horses covered by the HPA.

First, the HPA was written against a specific type of abuse: causing pain to a horse's limbs to force its legs to lift higher in the show ring. Soring as it is defined is not present in the TB world. The natural gait of the horse is not enhanced through mechanical means in any way TBs are shown, whether on the racetrack, in the jumping ring, or in the dressage ring. Therefore, your argument holds no water. You're merely trying to point fingers at someone else and place blame elsewhere to get the attention off yourself. Clearly the USDA sees right through this.

Q16: Can you tell me when the operative word in the HPA is a present tense "is sore", how can one permanently disqualify a horse for being permanently scarred when the present definition of scar is not the medical definition of scar and the scar as you know it, the horse's condition changes daily and a horse that you deemed sore today by virtue of a scar is certainly not sore tomorrow by virtue of a scar as you defined it. How can you rationalize permanently suspending one based upon the scar in your definition?
A16: We're not looking into the a permanent suspension of a scar rule violation. We are looking into specifically for the first offense it would be a two week suspension, a second offense would be 60 days and a third offense would be one year. So there is no permanent suspension being looked at at this time.

GOTCHA! Read the new rules before you speak!

Q17: Since you have the legal authority and you said for 34 years that you are supposed to have enforced the law why of all the 400 outlaw shows have you not been to and the resources to check these horses instead of double dipping behind HIOs when I watch you at shows when we know there's at least 400 outlaw shows that's being given to you to check. I want to know why you and the OIGs did not go out and still have not gone out and inspected horses and found horses in violation at these outlaw shows?
A17: We have attended outlaw shows and we continue to attend those shows that don't affiliate and that are brought to our attention and we have the resources to put there.

In case anyone doesn't know, "outlaw" shows are shows that are not affiliated with any HIOs. I have heard from many people who have gone to them that the soring is rampant and clearly in the open. Plastic wrap, "work grease" that includes none of the legal lubricants allowed per the HPA, oversized chains and chains with spikes welded on them to cause pain...you name it, they're doing it at these shows. Most of these shows take place at people's private arenas rather than at public arenas so the shows aren't announced to the public. I imagine that we don't hear about when the USDA goes to these shows because there is nothing to be reported through any normal channels since they aren't affiliated with any HIO.

Q18: If the department intends to have its own inspectors have they embarked on that program already? Have you been training inspectors? Do you plan to and how many do you plan to?
A18: No not at this time. We are not licensing and training the DQPs. We just have our USDA government employees that are oversight for the DQPs at this time.

And that's something they may have to change as time goes on, as they pointed out in the first part of this Q&A session.

Q19: There is a active current comment period open right now that I assume is something different from what the new comment period is that just opened up today. Can you tell what the difference is between the two 60 day windows? What the first comment period serves versus what this one does today? Also this move or action today is particularly concerning the welfare of the horse. Is that to be interpreted that now that the HPA commerce law is now being turned into an animal rights or a humane law or is that what is happening with these regulation changes?
A19: For the first part of your question, the current petition that is out on federal register right now was received from the HSUS. We when we receive formal petitions we are required to publish it and to put it out for comment from the general public;. The proposed rule that we have out right now is actually a USDA regulatory change that we are looking into implementing in the near future. As to the second question as to why after 30 some years we are doing this if that reflects an animal rights movement or something like that, no it does not. It represents after 30 some years we now have the support from the general public who has been crying for years about us being more judicious in our enforcement. This is just us responding to that in terms of the enforcement of the HPA the way it it should be enforced. We're trying to work diligently with those HIOs in carrying that out.

An excellent question to clarify what the differences are. I'm glad someone asked that. It can get confusing.

Technically, the USDA does not have the authority to change the type of law the HPA is. That would have to come from Congress. However, as is written in the Act itself, the USDA has full authority to use any means necessary to protect the welfare of the horse.

Q20: Back the outlaw shows. You say that you're judiciously doing what the HPA says. How many shows since 2002 on outlaw shows not ones that are HIO shows have you attended? And I kinda know the number and I would like for you to tell the general public that's listening. How many have you went to?
A20: I don't have that information right in here but if you'd like to make that request for you we can certainly get it together for you.

Let's point out that this has become an inappropriate question. This has nothing to do with the proposed rules. While it's a good question, it needs to be presented to the USDA through email or the Freedom of Information Act office. They don't have every little detail in front of them concerning all aspects of the HPA and the industry--they are here to only answer questions about the proposed rules at this time. And I certainly don't blame them for making a guess as to the number of shows they've been to--an incorrect guess would be a bad thing.


One more post starting with Question 21 will be coming to finish off the Q&A session from the stakeholder's meeting. To listen to the meeting, click here.

As always, don't forget to comment! Click here for the page for making comments.

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