Petition to Publish New Rule on Horse Protection Surpasses 81,000 Signatures

WILL THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TAKE ACTION?

by Sharon Rondeau

Video reported to have been taken at the National Celebration horse show in Shelbyville, TN in 2016 with show horse wearing “stacks” and chains.

(Feb. 14, 2017) — An animal welfare petition launched at change.org on January 21 directed to the president and four other “decision-makers” has garnered more than 81,000 signatures as of press time.

On Tuesday morning, the count showed 66,000+ signatures.  It is possible that some are not U.S. citizens.

Launched by Concerned Citizens Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty (CCABLAC), the petition asks President Trump to direct his Agriculture Secretary nominee, Sonny Perdue, to publish a rule in the Federal Register to protect Tennessee Walking Horses and two related breeds from cruel practices.

The rule was issued on January 13 but not published in the Federal Register.

On the evening of January 20, Trump signed an executive order suspending all pending federal rules, including those which had not yet taken effect after publication in the Register.

Purdue is a former Georgia governor and veterinarian and one of the last two of Trump’s cabinet-members to be identified.  He has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

The rule, issued by the Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October, would have turned over all pre-show horse inspections to DQPs, or Designated Qualified Persons employed by the agency, in order to abolish the reported conflicts of interest in which local inspectors also show or own gaited horses.

Horses are inspected for “soring,” a practice which the 1970 Horse Protection Act defined as “cruel and inhumane” and which injures the horse’s pasterns and hooves and can cause early death.

At present, a limited number of DQPs on a budget of approximately $500,000 annually perform pre-show horse inspections nationwide.

The rule further bans “stacks,” chains and certain foreign substances with the purpose of putting a stop to soring.

The high-stepping gait desired by some trainers, owners and judges requires the horse to lift its forelegs abnormally high with weighted shoes and sometimes chains while shifting more of its weight onto its back legs.  Substances such as kerosene and mustard oil are rubbed into the front legs, which are then wrapped overnight for added discomfort to the animal when walking.

Chains worn above the hooves during competition and foreign objects inserted under the hoof during training but removed before inspection add to the pain the horse experiences with the expectation that it will step higher in the show ring.

Critics of the new rule say that it is overly broad and will cripple the horse show industry in Tennessee, Kentucky and other rural states whose economy heavily relies on horse shows.

Since 2014, legislation specifically outlawing all soring has stalled in Congress for various reasons despite bipartisan support.  In light of that, the new regulation was developed to better enforce the Horse Protection Act, which forbids the transport, sale or showing of any horse determined to have been sored.

Although against the law, it has been reported by a number of former Tennessee Walking Horse trainers and veterinarians that soring has been handed down through generations, particularly in the South, to produce the “deep walk” which CCABLAC calls the “Big Lick.”

Over the last several days, The Post & Email attempted to reach the Humane Society of the United States, which has advocated for the new rule, to request any input it might have as to why it was not entered in the Federal Register but found its media telephone line to be dysfunctional.

CCABLAC founder BillyGoBoy also attempted unsuccessfully to speak with the Humane Society about the matter at the end of January.  Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle was reportedly a Hillary Clinton supporter who ran anti-Trump ads and, after Clinton lost the election, appointed an individual hostile to Trump as the organization’s lobbying liaison to the new administration.

CCABLAC’s petition states that action devices illustrate “50 years of corruption and Animal Cruelty to Tennessee Walking Horses” which the new rule would ban.  On the organization’s Facebook page, BillyGoBoy has posted numerous videos taken at horse shows throughout the South featuring Tennessee Walking Horses which are suspected of having been sored.

BillyGoBoy is retired attorney Clant Seay, who claims in a separate petition that an advocate of the “Big Lick” drove a truck menacingly toward a group of protesters as they held up signs against soring at the Tunica, MS “Fall Classic” horse show sponsored by the National Celebration on November 3, 2016.

Seay and two others there that evening have requested an appearance before the Tunica grand jury to present evidence against the driver, who has been identified; thus far, however, their request has not been honored.

On Monday morning, The Post & Email called the Tunica Circuit Court and asked for the prosecutor’s office to discuss a grand jury matter.  We were provided a phone number of an “investigator” which rang multiple times but was not answered and did not go to voice mail on several attempts.

On Monday afternoon, The Post & Email sent an email to USDA-APHIS Public Affairs Specialist Tanya Espinosa which reads:

Hello, Ms. Espinosa, I am a journalist who has been following the developments surrounding regulations aimed at stopping the soring of horses for show purposes by banning “pads and chains.”

I understand that the new rule was about to go into the Federal Register before the change in administrations but for some reason did not; then the new administration halted all new proposed regulations with an executive order.

Do you know why it was not entered into the FR prior to January 20?

I plan on writing to USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue myself, but do you know if he has been made aware of the allegations of animal cruelty in Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds caused by soring?

FYI, I called the information number at the USDA (202-720-2791) to try to reach someone by phone.  For animal matters, I was directed by the prompts to 301-734-7833, which is a non-working number.

Thank you very much.

Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
www.thepostemail.com
P.O. Box 113
Canterbury, CT  06331-0113
(203) 987-7948

On Tuesday morning, Espinosa responded:

Sharon,

The president signed an executive order which stopped all rules that haven’t taken effect in order to allow for review.  On Jan. 23, USDA issued interim operating guidelines outlining procedures to ensure the new policy team has an opportunity to review policy-related statements, legislation, budgets and regulations prior to issuance.  This includes the HPA final rule.

Even if it had been entered prior to January 20, it would have still been held as all regulations that were not currently in effect were included in the executive order.

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