"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, June 5, 2012

NEWS and ARTICLES - USDA Conference Call To Require Mandated Penalties by July 9

***UPDATED 6/6/2012 to include link to mandated penalties.

***UPDATED 6/5/2012 to add the mandated penalties.

The USDA held a conference call today and also announced online that they are now requiring all HIOs to adopt the mandatory penalties.  They will do so by July 9.  This is now going to be an amendment within the HPA that must be followed.

*** UPDATED Click here for the mandatory penalties.

Here are the new mandated penalties.  Note that these are IN ADDITION to the current HPA regulations.


1. The authority citation for 9 CFR part 11 continues to read as follows:

Authority: 15 U.S.C. 1823–1825 and 1828; 7 CFR 2.22, 2.80, and 371.7.
§ 11.7 [Amended]

2. In § 11.7, paragraph (g), the first sentence is amended by removing the word ‘‘section’’ the second time it
appears and adding the word ‘‘part’’ in its place.

3. In § 11.21, the section heading and paragraph (d) are revised to read as follows:

§ 11.21 Inspection procedures for designated qualified persons (DQPs).

* * * * *
(d) The HIO that licensed the DQP shall assess and enforce penalties for violations in accordance with § 11.25 and shall report all violations in accordance with § 11.20(b)(4).

4. A new § 11.25 is added to read as follows:

§ 11.25 Minimum penalties to be assessed and enforced by HIOs that license DQPs.

(a) Rulebook. Each HIO that licenses DQPs in accordance with § 11.7 must include in its rulebook, and enforce, penalties for the violations listed in this section that equal or exceed the penalties listed in paragraph (c) of this section.

(b) Suspensions.
(1) For the violations listed in paragraph (c) of this section that require a suspension, individuals including, but not limited to, the owner, manager, trainer, rider, custodian, or seller, as applicable, who are responsible for showing the horse, exhibiting the horse, entering or allowing the entry of the horse in a show or exhibition, selling the horse, auctioning the horse, or offering the horse for sale or auction must be suspended.

(2) If a horse is found to be bilaterally sore or unilaterally sore as defined in paragraph (c) of this section, in violation of the scar rule in § 11.3, or in violation of the prohibition against the use of foreign substances in § 11.2(c), the transporter of the horse may also be suspended if the transporter had reason to believe that the horse was to be shown, exhibited, entered for those purposes, sold, auctioned, or offered for sale.

(3) A person who is suspended must not be permitted to show or exhibit any horse or judge or manage any horse show, horse exhibition, or horse sale or auction for the duration of the suspension.

(4) Any person with multiple suspensions must serve them consecutively, not concurrently.

(c) Minimum penalties—
(1) Bilateral sore. A horse is found to be sore in both its forelimbs or hindlimbs. The horse must be dismissed from the remainder of the horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction.
First offense: Suspension for 1 year. Second offense: Suspension for 2 years. Third offense and any subsequent offenses: Suspension for 4 years.

(2) Unilateral sore. A horse is found to be sore in one of its forelimbs or hindlimbs. The horse must be dismissed from the remainder of the horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction.
First offense: Suspension for 60 days. Second offense: Suspension for 120 days. Third offense and any subsequent offenses: Suspension for 1 year.

(3) Scar rule violation. A horse is found to be in violation of the scar rule in § 11.3. The horse must be dismissed from the remainder of the horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction.
First offense: Suspension for 2 weeks. Second offense: Suspension for 60 days. Third offense and any subsequent offenses: Suspension for 1 year.

(4) Foreign substance violations. Violations of the prohibition against the use of foreign substances in § 11.2(c).
(i) Before or during the show, exhibition, sale, or auction. The horse must be dismissed from the remainder
of the horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction.
(ii) After the show, exhibition, sale, or auction. Suspension for 2 weeks (14 days). The horse must be dismissed from the remainder of the horse show,exhibition, sale, or auction.

(5) Equipment violation. Violations of the equipment-related prohibitions in § 11.2(b)(1) through (b)(10) and (b)(12) through (b)(17).
(i) Before or during the show, exhibition, sale, or auction. The horse must be dismissed from the remainder
of the horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction.
(ii) After the show, exhibition, sale, or auction. Suspension for 2 weeks (14 days). The horse must be dismissed from the remainder of the horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction.

(6) Shoeing violation. Violation of the shoeing-related prohibitions in § 11.2(b)(18). The horse must be
dismissed from the remainder of the horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction.

(7) Heel-toe ratio. Violation of the heel-toe ratio requirement in § 11.2(b)(11). The horse must be dismissed from the remainder of the horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction.

(8) Unruly or fractious horse. A horse that cannot be inspected in accordance with § 11.21. The horse must be dismissed from the individual class for which it was to be inspected.

(9) Suspension violation. A violation of any suspension penalty previously issued. Suspension for an additional 6 months (180 days) for each occurrence.

(d) Appeals. The HIO must provide a process in its rulebook for alleged violators to appeal penalties. The
process must be approved by the Department. For all appeals, the appeal must be granted and the case heard and decided by the HIO or the violator must begin serving the penalty within 60 days of the date of the violation. The HIO must submit to the Department all decisions on penalty appeals within 30 days of the completion of the appeal.

(e) Departmental prosecution. The Department retains the authority to initiate enforcement proceedings with respect to any violation of the Act, including violations for which penalties are assessed in accordance with this section, and to impose the penalties authorized by the Act if the Department determines that such actions are necessary to fulfill the purpose of the Act and this part. In addition, the Department reserves the right to inform the Attorney General of any violation of the Act or of this part, including violations for which penalties are assessed in accordance with this section.

6/5/2012 - USDA APHIS Newsroom Announcement  (copied and pasted below)

6/5/2012 - USDA moves toward mandatory penalties for horse soring

***ADDED  6/5/2012 - Stronger Federal Rule Announced to Impose Penalties against Horse Soring

Well, this is a good and a bad thing, really.  First, it's good because it means a level amount of penalties across the board.  Abusers can no longer switch HIOs to find which has the least damaging penalties for the types of soring they do.  It also means that the owners will now be responsible for their horses as well, per this text from the APHIS Newsroom:

This final rule requires that suspensions for violating the HPA be issued to any individuals who are responsible for: showing a sore horse; exhibiting a sore horse; entering or allowing the entry of that horse in a show or exhibition; selling, auctioning or offering the horse for sale or auction; shipping, moving, delivering or receiving a sore horse with reason to believe that such horse was to be shown, exhibited, sold, auctioned or offered for sale. This includes the manager, trainer, rider, custodian, seller or owner of the horse, as applicable.

I wish that the industry claims that the mandatory penalties will decimate the industry are true.  But the problem is they'll find ways around it.  They'll give out tickets that are less damaging than what is truly going on, like a 1-foot sore instead of a 2-foot sore.  Plus we all know tickets aren't written like they should be when USDA officials aren't around anyway.

I did a sort of "play-by-play" and typed as I was listening on the Q&A portion of the call on our Facebook page.  Here's what I typed.  I was doing it fast, so I apologize for the misspellings.  Jane H. on our page also jumped in with a few facts, so I included her posts as well.


Question: Can we expect the USDA to assist WHOA and TWHBEA are having extreme difficulty in something. No Gipson can't help because he doesn't know what can be done.

Pam Stone from Chattanooga Times -What prompted this change now? Hallie Zimmer refers her to press line.

Sorry about the first post, folks--I couldn't understand what the woman asked.

Stakeholder asks question what prompted this change now. Gipson said we were directed by OIG to make changes in 2010. This has taken time to work through the system.

Tracy Letterman from HSUS. Thank you in issuing this rule and is a much needed step in strenthening enforcment.

Robert calling about rule itself nothing has been said in today's phone call about what the ruling is will there be a follow up in the same Q&A format once it's published. Gipson we will be more than willing to accommodate that if needed. It's hard for us to give question for you because nothing said in here was in the press release I would like an opportunity to discuss that at that time.

Going over minimum penalties because this guy asked them to. Good idea to do that.

The penalties are good--they are strict. Horses will have to be dismissed for the rest of the show sale or auction if found in violation of any of the issues.

They have changes to the appeals as well--more strict on it too.

Hallie said you can contact their office if you have any further questions concerning the penalities.

Jerry Harris since the palpation is so subjective what are you going to do to take the subjectiveness away from it talking about some HIO DQPs checked a horse and it moved Gipson what consititutes the penality is if the horse is found sore concerning the HPA just b/c the horse moves does not mean anything to cause the VMO to ticket the horse eyewitness basically doesnt count no change in the inspection process now.

Jerry Harris the foreign substance HSUS keeps bringing up 52 horses tested positive wants to know how may of those were reliable can they be used in court? Gipson test is very reliable. Was any of them used in court? We have not at this time shared completed any of them due process. None of htem has ever be used to proscecute anybody? We're begining the process now to investigate those cases now.

Will y'all be doing the test swabs in the future to confirm accuracy? Our protocol in assuring what we're geting and maintaining the COC.
I talked to a guy who does testing like that for a living he said you have to be careful what's in the immediate vicinity as far as air particles and what can be transfered from one horse to another this guy claiming that someone draining oil or pouring gas into a lawnmower could be picked up on a swab.

Actually what I can do Mr. Harris is I can send you our protocol so you can actually see how we take samples and how we do it.

That was from Hallie.

Not sure who this is. Wants to know of HIOs that you think are doing a good job and what if not do you think they should do to do it better I hope the actions of a few don't condemn or hurt the industry. Gipson not in the business of commenting on the performance of the HIOs but we do evaluations.

This guy's passing the usual stuff...they are doing a good job 'cause I'm at the most of the horse shows, I see it's fine. Blaming the HSUS saying they got an agenda against the horse industry.

From Jane H.: that is a mr. gomez

Marshall Kemp - is there a reset period? No there isn't. Does the first second and third offense follow the horse trainer or owner? It follows the individual...it foloows the people but not the horse. Follows any individual associated with that horse.

From Jane H.: penalty does not follow horse but rather any person associated with horse with the violation.

Here comes more about Jerry Harris' questions...How many of those actually recieved a ticket? HEY GIPSON WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW!!!

Gipson they're getting around to processing those violations. We do have a foreign substance protocol that we're going through right now is on our website contact Hallie Zimmer and she can contact Cezar and she can get that information to you.

‎... Benjamin asking about swabbing again. GEEZ PEOPLE. He wants to know about the controls that's being done with each individual horse being swabbed and does the penalization include show managers? Cezar yes there is a control taken as well as a sample taken on the horse. Where we outlined who will actually be on suspension does not include show management. Deals with responsibility of entering the horse and allowing the horse entered.

Same person f a horse is found to be in vioation psot show the show manager has no responsibility or be penalized? Cezar no will not be included.

Jerry Harris is back. He keeps cutting out. Cezar in final rule there was the put out for comment...this is the one that was put out for comment and this is the one that is being finalized. Ties in all together.

From Jane H.: the show manager was always relieved of responsibilty IF there was a dqp. so this is not change.

Roland ... Complaining that animal rights person got to make a comment but press person didn't. Basically an animal rights person is a stakeholder and press has their own line. He's arguing.

She'll follow up with him later.

Mark Matson foreign substance swabbing do you still have on file copies of the foreign substances that were taken a number of shows back just prior to when this program was implemented samples at NWHA shows and FOSH shows thsee shows had same environmntal issues all shows have but these results were all negative. Do you still have them?

They will look it up and see.

Mark I belive that was the baseline work that was done and might help with teh concerns. EXCELLENT POINT.

‎Kimberly Welsh how to get USDA inspectors to attend local shows GOOD QUESTION Kim! Basically determined by concerning of soring at the show. Can always contact our office. Number 301-851-3746 Dr. Cezar.

Call is finished.


Here are my final thoughts from the FB page and just in general.

There are good things here. The penalties will affect ALL of those involved with the horse. The penalties will be the same across the board now.

But, this just means the bad guys are going to give things like a 1-foot sore rather than a 2-foot sore. And we all know they don't give out penalties when the USDA isn't there anyway, so I can't see how this is going to make that big of a difference. But, I think it WILL make a difference to those who get penalized.

Jane H. on our page said this, and I agree--she pretty much too the words right out of my mouth.

ok here are my thoughts. one I feel the penalties are still weak but that comes from 40 yrs exp watching standing next to and fighting to get this done and over with NOW. realistically, and I cannot believe I am saying this, I believe this baby step is needed. I guess, I suppose. See me trying to be positive. I would have liked to seen stronger language but I will take any improvement as positive steps to even better improvement. I must say they handled themselves with aplomb and deserve a round of applause.

They're still hung up on that stupid swab test thing. But I'm glad Mark brought up that we need to see the negative tests from the NWHA and FOSH shows so the industry can't use their fly spray and shampoo excuses. And I have to say that excuse about the fuel in the air...WTF EVER. Folks, I used to work for environmental consulting firms. Unless they were taking the swab and standing RIGHT NEXT to the fuel being poured in the tank and were waving the swab around in the air next to it, this would NOT work. A guy pouring fuel in a gas tank even 10 feet away isn't going to have an effect.

I know how taking the samples work. It is a process that has been in place for decades. I've taken water samples myself. It's not easy to fake or to mess up.

Overall, we definitely need those HIOs to be decertified. Maybe this will lead to that. I'm just glad that the USDA has taken a stand and said you WILL follow these mandatory penalties. And if the industry thinks they'll fail because of the new penalties, then LET THEM FAIL. Let them learn their lesson the hard way. FOSH, IWHA and NWHA will still keep things going.

This isn't enough to stop soring. The USDA can do far more, such as banning pads and chains on TWHs in the show ring. So we need to keep at it. DON'T support their shows, write our letters to the sponsors, get the money out of their hands. That's where we can do this.

We still need to put the pressure on the USDA to make them get rid of the pads and chains on the TWH in the show ring for good.  We also need to make them stop pussy-footing around with the industry.  Stop trying to work with the bad guys--it's like trying to reason with the Mafia.  They're happy to shake your hand while crossing their fingers behind their backs.


USDA Publishes Final Rule to Provide Greater Protection for Horses
Action Will Require Horse Industry Organizations to Assess Minimum Penalties for Violations

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2012— The U.S. Department of Agriculture has amended regulations to require horse industry organizations that license certain people to assess minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act. The move by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which administers the Animal Welfare Act, is meant to help eliminate the inhumane practice of horse soring—a practice primarily used in the training of Tennessee Walking Horses, racking horses and related breeds to accentuate the horse’s gait. Horse soring may be accomplished by irritating or blistering a horse’s forelegs through the application of chemicals or the use of mechanical devices.

“Requiring minimum penalty protocols will ensure that these organizations and their designees remain consistent in their inspection efforts,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Rebecca Blue. “USDA inspectors cannot be present at every horse show and sale, so we work with industry organizations and their designees to ensure the wellbeing of these animals. Our goal, together, is to make horse soring a thing of the past.”

The regulations currently provide that such penalties will be set either by the horse industry organizations or by APHIS. This final rule does not change the penalties set forth in the Horse Protection Act, or HPA. Rather, it requires all APHIS-certified horse industry organizations, which have already been administering penalties as part of their role in enforcing the HPA, to make their penalties equal or exceed minimum levels. The penalties in this final rule increase in severity for repeat offenders to provide an additional deterrent effect for people who have already shown a willingness to violate the HPA.

The final rule will also help ensure a level playing field for competitors at all horse shows.  Previously, as some horse industry organizations have declined to issue sufficiently serious penalties to deter soring, those shows have attracted more competitors than shows where horse organizations have used APHIS’ minimum penalty protocols. With this final rule, competitors now know that inspections and enforcement will take place consistently at all shows they and their horses attend.

Designated qualified persons are trained and licensed by their horse industry organizations to inspect horses for evidence of soring or other noncompliance with the HPA at horse shows, exhibitions and sales. USDA certifies and monitors these inspection programs. For over 30 years, USDA has encouraged self-regulation in the industry by allowing individual organizations to assess penalties for soring violations. But a September 2010 Office of Inspector General audit found that APHIS’ program for allowing the industry’s self-regulation has not been adequate to ensure that these animals are not being abused. One of the recommendations in the audit report was for APHIS to develop and implement protocols to more consistently issue penalties with individuals who are found to be in violation of the HPA.

This final rule requires that suspensions for violating the HPA be issued to any individuals who are responsible for: showing a sore horse; exhibiting a sore horse; entering or allowing the entry of that horse in a show or exhibition; selling, auctioning or offering the horse for sale or auction; shipping, moving, delivering or receiving a sore horse with reason to believe that such horse was to be shown, exhibited, sold, auctioned or offered for sale. This includes the manager, trainer, rider, custodian, seller or owner of the horse, as applicable.

An individual who is suspended will not be permitted to show or exhibit any horse or judge or manage any horse show, horse exhibition or horse sale/auction for the duration of the suspension.

Walking horses are known for possessing a naturally high gait, but in order to be successful in competition their natural gait is often exaggerated.  The exaggerated gait can be achieved with proper training and considerable time; however, some horse exhibitors, owners, and trainers have chosen to use improper training methods to achieve their desired ends.

In September 2010, USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found deficiencies in APHIS’ horse protection program. One of OIG’s recommendations was that APHIS develop and implement protocols to more consistently penalize individuals who have violated the Horse Protection Act. APHIS developed a minimum penalty protocol and, in a proposed rule published in the Federal Register on May 27, 2011, proposed requirements to ensure all horse industry organizations follow it.

With Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, APHIS works tirelessly to create and sustain opportunities for America’s farmers, ranchers and producers. Each day, APHIS promotes U.S. agricultural health, regulates genetically engineered organisms, administers the Animal Welfare Act, and carries out wildlife damage management activities, all to safeguard the nation’s agriculture, fishing and forestry industries. In the event that a pest or disease of concern is detected, APHIS implements emergency protocols and partners with affected states and other countries to quickly manage or eradicate the outbreak. To promote the health of U.S. agriculture in the international trade arena, APHIS develops and advances science-based standards with trading partners to ensure America’s agricultural exports, valued at more than $137 billion annually, are protected from unjustified restrictions.

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