Horse Protection Act (HPA) Inspection and Enforcement
The Horse Protection Act is administered by APHIS. A 1976 amendment to the Act led to the establishment of the what is known as the Designated Qualified Person (DQP) program. A DQP is a person who may be appointed and delegated authority by the management of a horse show or sale to detect horses that are sored, and to otherwise inspect horses for the purpose of enforcing the HPA. A DQP must meet APHIS’ regulatory requirements and must be licensed by a Horse Industry Organization (HIO) certified by the Department.
Licensed DQPs receive inspection assignments to various shows and sales through certified HIOs. While affiliation with a certified HIO and the use of licensed DQPs is not mandatory, most horse show and sale managers choose to use DQPs to reduce their liability under the Act if a horse is shown or sold while sore. When the management of a show, sale, auction, or exhibition does not affiliate with a certified HIO to secure inspections by a licensed DQP, the show manager and other responsible individuals are held accountable for any violations of the HPA that occur at the event.
APHIS strives to ensure that certified HIOs effectively identify sored horses, impose proper penalties, and assist the Agency in its goal of eliminating the practice of soring. APHIS officials also monitor as many unaffiliated horse shows—i.e., horse shows that do not hire licensed DQPs, or are not managed by certified HIOs who maintain DQP programs—as time and resources allow.
APHIS monitors HIO compliance by reviewing show management, HIO, and DQP reports that are filed with the Agency, and by conducting audits of records maintained by the certified DQP programs. APHIS attends selected shows and sales to evaluate HIOs’ inspection procedures and the performance of individual DQPs.
If an HIO fails to impose the proper penalty for a violation of the HPA, APHIS may bring administrative or criminal complaints against the alleged violators. Administrative complaints may result in civil penalties of not more than $3,000 for each violation, and an order disqualifying the violator from showing or exhibiting horses or otherwise participating in any horse event except as a spectator. Periods of disqualification are determined on a case-by-case basis but must be no less than 1 year for the first violation and no less than 5 yearsfor subsequent violations. Civil penalties of up to $3,300 can be assessed for a violation of an order of disqualification. The Act also authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to provide for the settlement of cases by way of consent decisions.
Criminal proceedings may be initiated against individuals who knowingly violate the Act. Criminal penalties include fines of up to $3,000 and 1 year in prison for a first offense. Each subsequent violation may result in fines of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to 2 years.