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USDA Proposes New Regulations to Combat Horse Soring

USDA Proposes New Regulations to Combat Horse Soring

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is proposing regulation changes to revise and strengthen the Horse Protection Act regulations to better protect horses from the cruel and inhumane practice of soring.

Soring is a practice in which certain gaited breeds of horses are subjected to chemical and/or mechanical irritants to enhance their gait and provide a competitive advantage in shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions.

USDA's proposal to amend the current regulations would make two significant changes:

  • USDA would train, license and screen all horse inspectors. Currently, horse industry organizations handle these responsibilities, but in a 2010 audit the Office of Inspector General stated this regulatory structure is ineffective because many industry-trained inspectors have conflicts of interest. Under the proposed rule, inspectors would be independent veterinarians or animal health technicians who are licensed by USDA and have no affiliation with any horse industry organizations. USDA would oversee this new group of independent inspectors.

  • USDA would prohibit the use of all action devices, pads and foreign substances that may be used to sore horses. Action devices include boots, collars, chains or rollers that are placed on a horse's lower leg to accentuate the animal's gait. Pads (or weights) are often stacked and inserted between the hoof and shoe and then tightened into place with metal bands around the hoof. With respect to foreign substances, the regulations currently prohibit the use of chemical irritants such as mustard oil, diesel fuel and kerosene that are applied to a horse's legs, while allowing the use of lubricants, at certain times, provided by show management. The proposed rule seeks to prohibit all foreign substances, including lubricants.

USDA's proposed changes would bring the Horse Protection Act regulations into alignment with existing standards established by the U.S. Equestrian Federation – the governing body for equestrian sports in America.

USDA welcomes your input on this proposed rule. Your participation is key. The public comment period runs from July 26 – Oct. 26, 2016. View the entire regulatory docket and submit your comments.

USDA's goals in upholding and enforcing the Horse Protection Act are to achieve the dual purposes of the Act: eliminate the cruel and inhumane practice of soring; and eliminate unfair competition by persons showing, exhibiting and selling sore horses. With this proposal to develop and enact new regulations, USDA seeks to attain these goals.


Public meetings

This webpage will serve as USDA's outreach hub for this regulation docket. In addition to accepting your comments online via the link above, USDA will also host five public meetings to gather additional comments. There will be four in-person meetings and one virtual meeting. The schedule is as follows:

Location Date and Time

Embassy Suites
1200 Conference Center Blvd.
Murfreesboro, TN 37129
Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016; beginning at 9 a.m. local time Complete
Clarion Hotel
1950 Newtown Pike
Lexington, KY 40511
Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016; beginning at 9 a.m. local time Complete
Courtyard Sacramento Airport Natomas
2101 River Plaza Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95833
Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016; beginning at 9 a.m. local time Complete
USDA-APHIS headquarters
4700 River Rd.
Riverdale, MD 20737
Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016; beginning at 9 a.m. local time Complete
Virtual public meeting
After registering, you will receive an email containing dial-in numbers and a personalized access code.
Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016; beginning at 5 p.m. EDT Complete

Any interested person may speak at the in-person meetings and/or during the virtual meeting. To do so, you must please register. You can also register in person 30 minutes prior to the start of the non-virtual meetings.

USDA may limit the speaking time for each participant so that everyone who wishes to speak can do so in the allotted timeframe. A meeting will end early if all speakers have been heard. You can also submit a written statement at an in-person meeting and it will become an official part of the record. For those reading a prepared statement, we ask that you please provide USDA two copies of the statement.

Please note: USDA representatives will preside at each public hearing, but they will not respond to comments at the hearings – except to clarify the proposed regulation changes.

If you have any problems registering (or connecting), or if you require special accommodations, such as a sign language interpreter, please email Dave Sacks, david.sacks@aphis.usda.gov.


Stakeholder messages

Stakeholder messages are a way for you to hear directly from USDA regarding these proposed regulation changes and other animal welfare topics. If you have not already done so, please consider joining our stakeholder registry. It is free to join, and you can customize it so you only receive updates on topics that interest you. You can join the registry here.


Thank you

Thank you for your interest in animal welfare and your willingness to participate in this process. Please feel free to share this information with anyone you think would be interested in participating.

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