Washington, D.C., May 25, 2018 – After carefully considering feedback from the public, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is announcing that it will not establish new criteria for recognizing third-party inspection and certification programs when determining the Agency’s own inspection frequency under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
In December 2017, APHIS announced a series of public listening sessions as an opportunity for leadership to gather information about the concept of third-party inspections from stakeholders, State partners, and the public. Additionally, APHIS posted a Federal Register notice in January 2018 inviting written comments through March 21, 2018. APHIS received and considered over 35,500 written comments.
APHIS appreciates the input received from stakeholders and carefully considered it when making a final decision. In this case, APHIS found the vast majority of the comments we received to not be in favor of establishing new criteria for recognizing third party inspection and certification programs. Stakeholders on all sides of the issue expressed concern about APHIS’ ability to maintain responsibility for inspections and AWA compliance should third-party inspections be taken into account when determining APHIS inspection frequencies.
APHIS will continue to use its current risk-based inspection system to determine the frequency of inspections, and will continue to promote compliance with the AWA by conducting quality inspections, offering voluntary compliance support and learning opportunities, and taking enforcement action, as appropriate.
Individuals interested in viewing the feedback APHIS received may access transcripts from each of the listening sessions here. Comments received through the Federal Register may be viewed here.
Dear Management of Horse Shows, Exhibitions, Sales, and Auctions (Management), Horse
Industry Organizations and Associations (HIOs), Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs);
and Owners, Trainers, Exhibitors, Custodians, and Protection Act (HPA) Covered
I hope this message finds you well. I would like to provide you with an update on efforts
to align HPA inspection processes and findings to ensure consistency of inspections
whether conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or DQPs licensed by
Soon after becoming the Deputy Administrator, members of the industry conveyed to me
the need for greater clarity around the inspection process so exhibitors know exactly what
to expect when they present a horse for HPA compliance inspection. For the past 16
months, we have focused on providing the industry with clear guidance on the inspection
process, and partnering with HIOs to improve the consistency in inspection findings
among DQPs and USDA Veterinary Medical Officers (VMO).
As a result of these efforts, my expectation, which I first is stated in my June 2017 letter, is
that neither you nor I should see any differences among USDA and DQP inspections or in
the thoroughness of DQP inspections when USDA is not present at an event. I also set a
performance goal to eliminate any difference in DQP inspection findings when USDA is or
is not present at an event. We’ve monitored progress in this area and, between October 1,
2017, and March 31, 2018, our VMOs attended 16 HPA events in 10 different states to
observe DQP performance and inspect horses for HPA compliance. I want to share the
HIO Summary Inspection Data we compiled for this period.
Although the HIO Summary Inspection Data covers a limited number of shows and we
remain in the early part of the show season, it demonstrates that despite our ongoing
efforts, the vast majority of HIOs that inspect padded horses did not detect any HPA
noncompliance when USDA was not present at a show. From October 2017 to March
2018, there was only one HIO that inspects padded horses for HPA compliance that
detected noncompliance while USDA was not present at show – S.H.O.W. Inc. At the
USDA and HIO joint training in February 2018, I noted, from a statistical perspective, it is
highly unlikely that exhibitors only present noncompliant horses for inspection when
USDA is present at a horse show. In fact, in our experience, when USDA arrives at an
HPA-covered event and exhibitors are concerned about whether their horses are HPA
compliant, they simply pack up their trailers and leave the show. In short, I remain very
concerned about HIOs, especially those inspecting padded horses, whose rate of
noncompliance is zero when USDA is not present, or are markedly different when USDA
is not present.
To mitigate these concerns, USDA will continue to:
• Focus its resources on attending events affiliated with HIOs that detected zero or
very few HPA noncompliances when inspecting padded and flat shod classes when
USDA was not present.
• Select additional horses for inspection when attending events with DQPs whose
performance varies depending on whether USDA is present to better understand
the true rate of noncompliance at these events and assess future performance.
• Refer back to the DQP any horse for which USDA detects an HPA
noncompliance to provide a platform for continued learning and discussion.
To achieve our common goals of ending the practice of soring horses and promoting fair
competition, it is essential that HIOs commit to fulfilling their HPA responsibilities and
licensed DQPs follow a consistent and thorough inspection process. We will continue to
provide you with updates as we track our performance goal of improving alignment between
USDA and DQP inspection findings.