Monday, November 8, 2010

Report Details Systemic Failure of Government Equine Protection Programs


For the second time this year, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has issued a troubling report outlining the failure of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)—an agency within the USDA—to enforce federal animal-protection laws. In May, the OIG detailed the USDA’s lax and ineffective enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act against puppy mills. Now it has taken on the humane treatment of horses, and its findings are similarly dismal.
APHIS operates the “Horse Protection Program,” which is supposed to ensure that show horses are not subjected to the abusive practice of soring (physically harming a horse to cultivate an exaggerated, artificial gait in the show ring), and the “Slaughter Horse Transport Program,” which is supposed to see to it that horses being shipped to foreign processing plants for slaughter are transported humanely. The OIG’s audit of these two programs, released October 28, found a long list of violations and failures to enforce the law.
The audit concluded unequivocally that APHIS’s “current program for inspecting show horses for abuse is not adequate.” Regarding the transport of horses to slaughter, the report states that, among other reforms, APHIS needs to implement stronger penalties to prevent individuals with humane handling violations from transporting slaughter horses. The agency also needs to strengthen its controls over the identification tags used on horses bound for slaughter.
APHIS has responded to the audit by acknowledging violations on horse soring and the need to remove inspectors too close to the industry. The agency also said it plans to discipline veterinarians who don’t enforce horse protection laws, and hopes to have a "chip" system in place by next year to track sored horses.
The ASPCA has been in direct contact with APHIS leadership on the enforcement failures. We will continue to work with them in the hopes that the promises made really do come to fruition in the form of active, effective enforcement.
To stay up to date on the latest developments in animal-protection law, please regularly visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center.

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