June 26, 2011
Docket No. APHIS-2011-0030
Regulatory Analysis and Development
PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8
Re: Docket No. APHIS-2011-0030. Horse Protection Act: Requiring Horse Industry Organizations To Assess and Enforce Minimum Penalties for Violations
Dear Dr. Cezar:
The American Horse Council (AHC) appreciates the opportunity to submit these comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), on the proposed rule changes to amend the horse protection regulations to require horse industry organizations or associations that license Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs) to assess and enforce minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act (HPA). The AHC supports APHIS’ efforts to strengthen enforcement of the HPA.
The American Horse Council
The AHC is a Washington-based association that represents individual members and over 120 equine organizations before Congress and the federal regulatory agencies. AHC member organizations include breed registries, national and state equine associations, state horse councils, recreational associations, and organizations representing race tracks, horsemen, horse shows, veterinarians, farriers, rodeos, and other equine related stakeholders. The AHC also includes individual horse owners and breeders, veterinarians, farriers, trainers, professional, amateur, and recreational riders, and commercial suppliers. Individually, and through our organizational members, the AHC represents several hundred thousand horse owners and others involved in all sectors of the horse industry.
HPA Proposed Rule Changes
USDA has proposed to institute minimum penalty protocols to be included by an HIO in its rulebook. USDA is also proposing to require HIOs to adopt, assess and enforce penalties as strong as, or stronger, than the penalties set forth in the new USDA rule. The AHC believes that enforcing consistent and minimum penalties for HPA violators will heighten effective enforcement of the Act. The AHC supports the proposed minimum penalties, particularly:
• Suspending all individuals involved with the showing, exhibiting, or sale of a sore horse, including the owner, manager, trainer, rider, custodian and seller.
• Requiring that any person suspended not be permitted to show, exhibit, judge or manage a show or sale during the suspension period.
• Requiring a person with multiple suspensions to serve them concurrently.
• Adding an additional six months for violations during any suspension period.
• Setting specific minimum penalties for bilateral sore violations, unilateral sore violations, scar rule violations, foreign substance violations, equipment violations, and shoeing violations.
• Requiring that a sore horse be dismissed from the remainder of the show, exhibition or sale.
• Dismissing any unruly or fractious horse from the class.
The AHC believes that the current level of funding for the HPA does not enable the Agency to oversee and enforce the HPA adequately. In fiscal year 2007, HPA’s program budget was sufficient to send APHIS veterinarians to approximately 30 of the 463 accredited shows, or 6 percent. Given the weaknesses in the inspection process, APHIS employees need to attend more shows to ensure that horses are inspected adequately. The AHC supports the OIG audit finding which recommended USDA seek an appropriate level of funding that will help provide for additional inspectors, training, security, and advanced detection equipment.
The AHC has worked with appropriators in Congress and requested an increase to $900,000 for the HPA to address these issues. Unfortunately, even though the increase to $900,000 was included in the President’s FY 2012 Budget, the HPA was maintained at the previous year’s funding level. The AHC will continue to work with Congress and USDA to obtain the appropriate level of funding needed to strengthen enforcement of the HPA.
The AHC encourages USDA to continue to incorporate transparency and collaboration in all future HPA initiatives and to work cooperatively with the HIOs, show managers, and industry participants to ensure the industry thrives while also eliminating the act of soring.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact us.
James J. Hickey, Jr., President