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May 27, 2011

USDA Commended for Proposed New Regulations on Horse Protection Act

The Humane Society of the United States applauds the United States Department of Agriculture for proposing changes to its Horse Protection Act regulations that are intended to improve enforcement of the four-decades-old federal law. As The HSUS made clear in the legal petition it submitted to the USDA last August, the HPA has been woefully under-enforced since it was passed in 1970 and has not resulted in a significant reduction in the cruel practice of horse “soring,” the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s legs or hooves, often with chemical irritants, screws or other foreign objects, to force an artificial “high stepping” gait for show competitions. 

The HSUS is pleased that the agency has clarified in its notice of rulemaking that Horse Industry Organizations certified by USDA to inspect horses under the HPA can be stripped of that certification if the HIOs fail to comply with HPA regulations.

The proposed new regulations, published in the Federal Register, would also establish mandatory minimum penalties to be imposed by HIOs for violations of the Act.  However, The HSUS believes that the penalties in this proposal for rulemaking are far too lenient for some violations of the Act.

Among the proposed penalties that are too weak, the agency has proposed only a two-week suspension from showing for a violation of “scar rule,” which means a horse’s legs have been scarred in such a way that provides clear evidence of painful and cruel soring.

“In publishing today’s proposed rulemaking, USDA has taken the first of many steps necessary to fix the problems that have for 40 years prevented its Horse Protection Program from bringing an end to soring,” said Keith Dane, The HSUS director of equine protection. “Mandatory penalties, if enforced, will provide a deterrent to those who would maim horses just to gain a competitive advantage. USDA must ensure that the penalties are commensurate with the violation, and The HSUS encourages the public to voice its concerns for the welfare of the horse through the rulemaking comment process.” 

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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