Here's part 3 of the Q&A from the stakeholder's meeting on May 27, 2011. To reiterate, this meeting was to discuss the proposed rules only, NOT FOR ANYTHING ELSE. Furthermore, 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. And 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.
Here is the final set of questions and answers from the meeting.
Q21: ...My state within a three week period, I know of two that were here in the last two weeks. None of them have seen any USDA agents or representatives at these shows. This has been going on now for years and no one ever attends these shows. I also would like to know how many shows you have attended.
A21: Ma'am we are always interested in that information. You can always email to my [Dr. Cezar's] email address any information about non-affiliated horse show that is a concern or you can call my line as well. But any further information that you would like about our oversight you can do a Freedom of Information Act request which is available on our website as well.
I am assuming this is asking about the outlaw shows since the woman started talking before she the call operator was able to introduce her. At this point the question has been answered and they need to move on.
Q22: Back on the outlaw shows. Do you have any general idea of how many you all have checked in the last 10 years and I would just like to know officially online about how many you all went and why you double dip behind the HIOs. I don't like double paying you all. I would like for you to do your job and there's 400 that's been given to you all officially. I know the name and the shows. So I wanna know how many approximately have you all been to in the last at least since 2002.
A22: Ma'am I don't have that information with us at this time and as we stated you can make that request through our Freedom of Information Act office. But please recognize as well in the regulations it does state that USDA does have oversight duties to uh make sure that the DQPs are conducting their inspections accordingly so that's why we are in an oversight role when we go to those horse shows and that's why you may see us at times at the HIO horse shows that DQPs are at.
As far as the double dipping is concerned, I assume she is talking about the USDA being at shows to monitor the DQPs as they're working. It doesn't work like that. The USDA does both: it can bring VMOs to specifically check horses at shows that aren't affiliated with an HIO, or they can come and observe and monitor the DQPs and step in if necessary. This is important for them to do because they do need to make sure the DQPs are also doing their jobs. They have had to suspend DQP licenses for poor conduct and for not checking a horse correctly within the past few years--This information is available on the USDA website. Click here for the Judicial Proceedings page and type "horse protection act" into the search box to find results concerning rulings on things such as trainers, owners, or DQPs who have been finded and/or suspended and various other rulings that pertain to the HPA.
Q23: You guys have been in oversight mode. Do you feel like the HIOs are doing their jobs at this time?
A:23: Our position is that we still have horses sored. As long as we have horses sored it's not only the HIOs it's the industries that are not doing their job.
That's a damn good answer. HORSES ARE STILL SHOWING UP SORE, PERIOD. We know it can be eliminated--it has been eliminated at FOSH, NWHA, and International shows. So there is no reason for there to be sore horses in the ring anymore other than greed and pride. And I agree that it's both the HIOs and the industry's fault. The industry came up with the idea for the HIOs, and therefore they are just as responsible for them as the USDA is.
Q24: Has the Department of Agriculture in any agency has a compliant rate as good as horse protection does in the Walking Horse industry? The last time I checked we was about 97 point something in compliance. In the recent years in the last two or three years have you all really looked at this horse as a whole? Not the ones that you brought to a DQP clinic to teach DQPs how clean and how sound these horses are? I think if you all would really have a seminar and invite the multitude of horses to come and don't put no two or three hour limit on it. Let's have a two or three day where everybody can see this horse. This horse is as clean as any other athlete horse there is showing today. The compliance rate's great and I think everybody needs to promote that instead of wanting to change all the regulations come up with tougher regulations this horse is not as sore as you all say he is. I also have racehorses and I know lots of problems in that area. But give credit where credit's due and this horse is a great athlete and he's cleaner than what you all are saying he is.
A24: I appreciate your comments and I think you should take credit and pat yourselves on the back for the good job that you've done in those areas that you have identified.
The statement about the USDA having a seminar had me laughing out loud. Are you serious? Do you really think that people are going to bring their sore horses to some seminar put together by the USDA? OF COURSE they'll all be on their best behavior and won't bring any horses that have been sored! That's like asking a bunch of burglars to show up with any merchandise they've stolen and turn it in. What a joke!
BLAH BLAH BLAH. The same old B.S., different day. The industry has been crying 90+ percent compliance for the past 20 years. It doesn't matter. That number is only based on those numbers that are actually sent to the USDA. And they are also only based on compiling the results of only one or two major shows per year, not the hundreds that actually go on.
Plus, the HPA ONLY covers a specific type of abuse to horses, which is causing pain to a horse's limbs to force them to lift highter in the show ring. Racehorses aren't shown in this manner--there are not Big Lick or Saddleseat racehorses. Therefore they are not covered under the HPA, and this matter needs to be understood and dropped.
Overall, the law is in place to stop soring, not to to promote the sound horses. The USDA's job is to enforce the law, not to give credit to the industry. And let's point this out:
"...this horse is not as sore as you all say he is."
So you are saying that he is sore. Thank you for confirming that. Folks, the numbers don't matter. One sore horse is one too many, and even one sore horse is against the law.
Overall, Dr. Gipson's response is very appropriate. He doesn't have to answer to this guy. Again, we are here to talk about the new regs, not discuss what the industry wants to do or how they want to be praised for all of the supposed good they've done. But as long as there are sore horses, there will be a need for the law to be enforced, and if that includes changing the regs, then it needs to be done.
Q25: Two parts here. One can we have more of these conversations? I think probably this is the best way instead of everybody talking behind a keyboard the best way to exchange information is this way. My second question is since violations are so readily available on the Internet of one of our exhibitors or trainers receiving a ticket at a horse show why is it so hard to get information just on the horse shows that you all inspect? I know there have been several questions about the basic information what shows do you attend in the past 65 days. It seems like a violation can get on the Internet immediately but why would we have to go through a [inaudible] to get information. I applied one time and it took me two years to get some information. It seems that information would be easier to get than somebody's ticket that they got last Friday night.
A25: For the first part of your question, we are willing and have been willing and have made ourselves available to hold conference calls, conferences, we'll work with the industry in terms of putting on seminars and things like that. So that absolutely is not an issue for less informed. We will work with HIOs on a regular basis on a monthly basis with conference calls and things like that. If the industry in general the public in general wants to do that that's not an issue for us. We have actually held way out in the country public meetings to discuss concerns and get concerns about the industry. So that really is not an issue with us. It's something that we would love to do and if it's something that you want we're willing to work with you to do that. [For the second part of your question,] we actually are working towards more transparency from the USDA. To view our website it's www.aphis.usda.gov. If you go to that website and on the right side it will say Horse Protection Act, that gives a multitude of information about our horse protection activities as well as the HIO inspection reports. So we have that all available online now because we are working towards more transparency with the general public.
Q26: Concerning the scar rule, it is not in the HPA and should not be in the regulations as written. In the regulations a scarred horse is defined as a legally sore horse and I would like to see that particular verbage changed. Also I don't think the regulations should be limited to Tennessee Walking Horses and Racking Horses. It didn't used to have that particular distinction and the HPA clearly says all horses so I would like to see that verbage also changed in the regulation. Back to a previous issue that I don't really think was addressed as well as we might like to see it addressed was the Commerce Law. The HPA is a Commerce Law and not a humane law and in the HPA it speaks when someone has been tried and has gone to court and is proven guilty of a federal HPA violation the penalties even state not to put a hardship on that individual meaning at least in my translation whether it's financial or otherwise but would also apply to the entire industry usually our government tries to protect industry and let it grow rather than trying to destroy it. I was wondering if you all have comments on those particular issues.
A26: A lot of the comments you made are legal based on [inaudible] and the purpose of putting this rule out for a 60 day comment period are to give you time to fill in all of those types of concerns and get them addressed by the appropriate authority.
I've already talked about the protection of the industry horse issue in Part 2 of this Q&A; see Question 14. The USDA isn't answering questions about the scar rule in this meeting, and the legal parts of the questions would need to be answered by a lawyer.
Q27: Are these proposed regulations based upon any new scientific study of any sort within the knowledge of the department since the Auburn studies? And are you as the department willing to collaborate with TWHBEA or any other entity in any future studies that might study these issues?
Q27: We have looked into the different penalty protocols that have been put in place in previous years with the HIOs such as the Operating Plan. Those have been in place since 2003 and therefore that's where we're talking most of our information from as well as our administrative law actions. Also the previous year our HIOs were not able to come to an agreement for an Operating Plan and that's why we ended up recommending the penalty protocol and actually putting this as a mandate for each HIO to enforce. To clarify a couple of comments, this proposal clarifies the existing authorities that the Secretary has. There's nothing new about the authorities here. This is for the clarification and we chose to go the way that we're clarifying because there was some confusion in the industry in regards to the Secretary's authority. So we said we would go ahead and clarify this so everyone including the industry as well as the general public will understand the authority the Secretary has and the approach we're going to take to enforcing the regulations within our authority. So these are not new regulations; just a clarification of the Secretary's authority and clarifying things in the existing regulations.
Q28: On the statement that you just made you say you all have reissued this proposal which is pretty much a carbon copy of the last one because there's confusing on the Secretary's authority. Now we've had this law for 30 years. The industry's not confused. The the department may be confused. Can you elaborate on that? Is it because we have new employees in the department that don't understand the law? The industry understands the law. I just would like your comments on that.
A28: I would say that what the industry understands is how they apply the law. What the department understands is how the Secretary is supposed to execute the law, and what we do is to clarify how the department is going to execute the law. So the industry made their decision in terms of over the years of how they were going to operate which has not been in accordance with the law. Even the Operating Plan was an example of that. The industry signed the Operating Plan but they never followed it. If we're gonna be sure they're gonna understand what rules, laws and things to follow and that they will be enforced and so the public understands what we're doing so the public can see to hold us accountable for doing or not doing what we're supposed to do to enforce the HPA.
I think the question is good--the industry DOES know what the law is. The problem is that the industry is refusing to obey the law. And I really like the answer to this question, that the industry has decided to operate but not in accordance with the law. Again, what the industry has CHOSEN to do is not the government's fault. They complain about the government being on their backs. Well, maybe if they had chosen to follow the law and actually end soring then they wouldn't have the government on their back. I imagine that if soring were truly eradicated, then there would be no need for inspections anymore, which would save the industry a lot of money. It is a choice the industry has made, that's obvious.
Q29: My question is a clarification of the penalty protocol involving the first, second and third offenses. I'm wondering first of all when is that slate wiped clean? Um if someone sells a horse or buys a horse that has a first, second or third penalty would those tickets follow the horse? Would the owner of the horse who's selling him does he still have a first and second offense? I was wondering how those offenses would follow.
A29: The offenses do not follow the horse. The individuals that are responsible for the horse are the ones that get the suspension. That can be the trainer, the owner, the custodian, the rider, and/or the transporter.
Q30: I don't really have a new question but I would ask you to please carefully and listen to and answer my question this time. My question is are these regulations based on any new scientific evidence in your understanding arising since the original Auburn studies? And the second part is would the department be ready and willing to collaborate with any industry entity in participating in any further studies? Please answer the questions.
A30: To answer your first question it goes back to the same answer I just gave you for the previous question which references the fact these regulations there's nothing new about them. These are the clarifications of what has already existed there. As to the research that's going on independently of the industry we have worked with a large number of the individuals within the industry taking a look at those things that we can use and to any of the work with the industry to help address some of these areas of uncertainty as far as the sound horse is concerned. As far as the USDA working with the industry and doing studies, last time we tried to work with the industry to do a study the industry itself came to the department and had the USDA withdraw from the study. So I would say if you feel like the industry's willing and ready to cooperate with the USDA to do a study if in fact a study is necessary to stop soring, include that in your comment as a consideration.
First question: the answer is basically NO. Second question: Note what Dr. Gipson said here folks: that the USDA has tried to work with the industry BUT "the industry itself came to the department and had the USDA withdraw from the study." So I don't see the industry as truly wanting to work with the USDA to solve this issue if they asked them to withdraw. So why shouldn't the USDA continue to try to make changes to the regulations when the industry itself doesn't want to work with them?
It's also important to know that soring can only be done legally by the USDA. Logically, in order to conduct any studies concerning soring, pressure shoeing, etc., soring has to be performed to monitor it's effects. So if the industry decides to do a study, they can be found liable for deliberately soring horses. It is in the industry's best interest to work with the USDA on this. See how you're shooting yourselves in the foot here, industry? Are you paying attention?
Q31: I'd like to get a clarification on the penalty protocol. As has been stated there are four HIOs that have not included the penalty protocol in their rulebook this year. If I show under a HIO that has included the penalty protocol on one week and I get a scar rule and two or three weeks later I show with a HIO that has not included the penalty protocols how is that gonna affect my standing? Does the second scar rule go away? Does the first one stay there because the HIO has accepted the penalty protocol? How's that going to affect the exhibitors?
A31: That will depend on the HIOs that are inspecting those horse shows. Most of the HIOs are working collaboratively with honoring each of the HIO suspensions so you would need to ask the HIO directly how that would work out with them at this time.
Q31A: Okay so what you're telling me is if I were to show under the uh where do I stand with the government? That's the people that basically hold the key there. If one HIO gives me a ticket that has the penalties in place and the other one doesn't, does that second one just go away? I mean you guys hold the key to the whole thing.
A31A: I would say you would still need to speak to the HIO directly on that. For instance if you say you had a scar rule violation at one horse show that could be a two week suspension and if you go to another horse show that's a different HIO, you would have to talk with them and see if the HIOs are honoring each others' suspensions and if they would realize that you should be on a two week suspension.
Q31B: Okay and does that count with the government as the second scar rule and if I get a third with another HIO that has not signed I'm on a one year suspension is that correct?
A31B: No not at this time. When the proposed rule comes into place all HIOs will have to implement the penalty protocol. That will be published in the final rules. But at this time you would have to work directly with the HIOs on that.
A31C: I think the answer to your question is you were talking about an industry ticket not a federal ticket. If it was a federal ticket we would have something to do with it. If it was an industry ticket then the industry ticket is between you and the HIO.
Another thing to point out here is that ANY show, and this includes none affiliated shows that have AAEP vets inspecting the horses, will have to follow the protocol once it is added as an amendment to the HPA. This means that no matter who you show with, the penalties will be the same.
And my other thought here is this: Why in the world are you showing the same horse that has scars that got a ticket two or three weeks before? It takes more than just a couple of weeks for a scar to heal. How about you give time for the scar to heal and not risk getting another ticket? And if you tend to get scar rule tickets and keep racking them up, then why are you still showing?
Q32: How did the department come up with this specific penalty structure that you're proposing? Where did it come from and why are these specific rules being proposed? Did the OIG specifically say this is what needs to happen to keep non-compliant horses out of the ring or are you really listening to the petition of the Humane Society?
A32: This penalty protocol predates the petition that was provided by the Humane Society. This penalty protocol was recommended to the HIOs mid-2010 last year. So this has been in place for a while. The OIG audit did recommend that we have more consistent penalties that would be applied to the violators. And where we came to this type of penalty protocol is that as we stated earlier from reviewing the history of the Operating Plan and how they were implemented and that we also had approved those specific Operating Plans at that time. So that's where we had looked into proposing this penalty protocol.
Basically, the penalties needed to be more consistent both across the board in general and within the HIOs in particular. So that's where this specific list came from. It is important to reiterate that this WAS NOT the HSUS's idea--this problem has been around since before the HSUS got involved. I guess that's another part that this industry is not understanding--the USDA is not being forced to do this by special-interest groups. Those groups have only recently started really fighting this fight--many of them didn't even know about soring until now. I myself have contacted PETA and the ASPCA before the ASPCA became involved and was told that it wasn't a big enough problem for them to tackle. But now it is, at least to the ASPCA. But overall, it's been because the OIG stepped in and told the USDA you have got to start doing your job or else that things are starting to change.
Q33: Earlier you had stated that the Thoroughbreds were not under the HPA. How does a separate breed get added to that?
A33: That's a legislative issue. And by that I mean you have to take that to Congress.
This is an EXCELLENT question, for I would like to see the Saddlebreds, Hackney Ponies, Missouri Fox Trotters, Rocky Mountain Horses, Kentucky Mountain Horses, Arabians, National Show Horses, and pretty much any breed that is show in Saddle Seat be included in the HPA. Soring exists in the Saddle Seat world and in any breed where the correctness of gait is what's being judged. I have heard (heard only, mind you--not witnessed) that MFTs and RMHs are also being sored, and it is known that the TWH industry learned about soring through the Saddlebred industry. But we would have to actually petition Congress to make this change, and I think it's more important right now to get the HPA in order and get soring under control before adding more breeds and potentially more drama into the mix.
Q34: I don't think some questions were answered. I need to know whether or not you have any data that a horse that is scarred remains scarred for a certain period of time and that a horse that is bilateral sensitive or sore remains that way for a certain length of time. Do you have any scientific data and if so what and what can we as for from you all to know what your data is regarding such?
A34: I just want to clarify that the comments that you have just raised those are the types of comments that need to be addressed directly and to the Federal Registrar and like I said it should be online or through the mail. And I will be informing all stakeholders through email what site link to find the proposed rule as well as our press release. I also do want to reiterate that stakeholder's can call program officials for clarification on the proposed rules but if there's any expression of opinions on the proposed provisions any type of comments at all we cannot take those whatsoever. We will have to end the call at that time because we are not taking comments directly. They have to go into the regulations.gov or directly mailed for the proposed rules.
Again, this is the discussion about the penalty protocol, not scientific data. And I think the USDA made it pretty clear that they have not done any studies and that they have not determined if scientific studies are needed.
This is the end of the session. Dr. Gipson ended with advising everyone to submit any comments they have to the comments on the regulations page for this proposed rules so they can take all of those things into consideration to finalize the process.