Under the Horse Protection Act (HPA), representatives (known as “Designated Qualified Persons,” or DQPs) of certified horse industry organizations (HIOs) are authorized to inspect horses at shows and sales and to cite individuals for horse soring violations and assess penalties. However, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), some HIOs “have declined to issue sufficiently serious penalties to deter soring….” This has actually led to increased participation in shows overseen by those HIOs. In response, USDA has issued a new rule requiring HIOs to assess penalties for HPA violations that are either equal to or exceed the minimum penalties set under the law.
Allowing the walking horse industry to self-regulate has only led to ongoing abuse of horses. While it is unacceptable that HIOs let their industry friends off with slaps on the wrist, it is possible that this new regulation will actually discourage HIOs from citing violations at all. History has shown that DQPs only feel the pressure to enforce the law when USDA is there—and what good is that? The best response to the failure of self-regulation is to dismantle the DQP system and increase the number of USDA inspectors available for much-needed HPA enforcement.