Horse Protection Act Inspection and Enforcement

Horse Protection Act Inspection and Enforcement


The Horse Protection Act is administered by APHIS. A 1976 amendment to the Act led to the establishment of the the Designated Qualified Person (DQP) program. A DQP must meet APHIS' regulatory requirements and must be licensed by a Horse Industry Organization (HIO) certified by the Department.

APHIS strives to ensure that certified HIOs and DQPs 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) 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 Veterinary Medical Officers (VMO) also attend selected shows and sales to evaluate HIOs' inspection procedures and the performance of individual DQPs.


Veterinary Medical Officer (VMO) Annual Show Report


APHIS may bring administrative or criminal complaints against alleged violators of the HPA. Administrative complaints may result in civil penalties of not more than $2,200 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 years for 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.

After pleading guilty to violating the Horse Protection Act, Jackie McConnell was sentenced to three years of probation in federal court. He was also fined $75,000 and disqualified from showing horses for life. As part of his probation, he was ordered to perform community service for USDA. It was decided that the most impactful way for him to satisfy his community service requirement was to participate in a public service message that shows how his conviction and subsequent loss of personal freedoms have negatively altered his life. Our aim in posting this video message is to deter other individuals from violating the Horse Protection Act in the future. Our ultimate goal in enforcing the Horse Protection Act is to put an end to the cruel and inhumane practice of soring horses.