USDA Announces Final Rule on Horse Protection Act
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced final regulations governing enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA). The HPA was passed in 1970 to stop the cruel practice of "soring" horses that was occurring in some sectors of the Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse and Spotted Saddle Horse industry.
The final rule would make several major changes to current HPA regulations with the goal of ending soring. The AHC is currently reviewing the details of the final rule to determine its impact on the horse industry. However, USDA seems to have made several modifications and clarifications to the final rule in accord with the comments submitted by the AHC and others.
Importantly, the USDA has made changes to the final rule that address horse industry concerns had regarding the proposed rule release last summer. These changes include explicitly limited new prohibitions on pads, wedges, and action devices to "Tennessee Walking Horses and Racking Horses," and removal of all references to "related breeds that performs with an accentuated gait that raises concerns about soring." Additionally, USDA has adopted several proposals to make the rule less burdensome for smaller "flat shod" walking horse shows. USDA also has clarified that certain reporting and record keeping requirements apply only to "Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse shows."
According to the USDA under the final regulation—
• APHIS will license, train, and oversee independent, third party inspectors, known as Horse Protection Inspectors (HPIs), and establish the licensing eligibility requirements to reduce conflicts of interest.
• Beginning 30 days after the publication of the final rule, all action devices, except for certain boots, are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction. All pads and wedges are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction on or after January 1, 2018, unless such horse has been prescribed and is receiving therapeutic, veterinary treatment using pads or wedges. This delayed implementation allows ample time to both gradually reduce the size of pads to minimize any potential physiological stress to the horses and prepare horses to compete in other classes.
• Beginning January 1, 2018, management of HPA-covered events must, among other things, submit certain information records to APHIS, provide HPIs with access, space, and facilities to conduct inspections, and have a farrier physically present to assist HPIs at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions that allow Tennessee Walking Horses or racking horses to participate in therapeutic pads and wedges if more than 150 horses are entered, and have a farrier on call if 150 or fewer horses are entered.
The final rule has not been published in the Federal Register, but USDA has stated they plan to publish it in the next several days.