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USDA/APHIS RIN: 0579-AE19 Publication ID: Fall 2016 
Title: Horse Protection; Licensing of Designated Qualified Persons and Other Amendments 

This rulemaking will amend training and licensing requirements mandated by the horse protection regulations. We are also making several changes to the responsibilities of show management of horse shows, horse exhibitions, horse sales, and horse auctions, as well as changes to the list of devices, equipment, substances, and practices that can cause soring or are otherwise prohibited under the Horse Protection Act and regulations. Additionally, we are amending the inspection procedures. These actions are intended to strengthen existing requirements intended to eliminate soring and promote enforcement of Horse Protection Act and regulations.

Agency: Department of Agriculture(USDA)  Priority: Other Significant 
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
CFR Citation: 9 CFR 11   
Legal Authority: 15 U.S.C. 1823 to 1825    15 U.S.C. 1828   
Legal Deadline:  None

Statement of Need:

Soring, the act of deliberately inducing pain in a horse’s feet to produce an exaggerated show gait, has been a persistent practice within the Tennessee Walking Horse industry despite regulations prohibiting it. Third party inspectors are currently trained and licensed by horse industry organizations and conduct inspections of horses at horse shows and exhibitions.  In response to public concerns about the ability of the Horse Protection Program to prevent soring, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) initiated an audit of APHIS’ oversight of the Horse Protection program and concluded that APHIS’ inspection program for inspecting gaited horses is not adequate to ensure that horses are not being sored for the purposes of enhanced performance.  OIG recommended that APHIS eliminate the horse inspection program in its current form and assume a direct involvement in the accreditation and monitoring of inspectors and inspection procedures.  Under the proposed rule, all training and licensing of inspectors would be conducted only by APHIS, and devices used to cause soring would be further restricted or prohibited.  APHIS is in agreement with these recommendations but needs to amend the regulations through rulemaking in order to adopt it. 

Summary of the Legal Basis:

Section 4 of the Horse Protection Act, as amended (15 U.S.C. 1823), requires the Secretary of Agriculture to prescribe by regulation requirements for the appointment by the management of a horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction (referred to below as show management) of persons qualified to detect and diagnose a horse which is sore or to otherwise inspect horses for the purpose of enforcing the Act.  Section 9 (15 U.S.C. 1828) authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to issue such rules and regulations as deemed necessary to carry out the provisions of the Act.


In following the recommendations of the USDA OIG Audit, we believe the changes we proposed in this rulemaking represent the best alternative option that would accomplish the stated objectives and minimize impacts on small entities.  In the proposed rule, we welcomed comments from the public on other options, in particular the viability of alternative approaches that would continue to rely on the horse industry organization concept, and what the governance of such an organization should be like.

Anticipated Costs and Benefits:

The benefits of the proposed rule are expected to justify the costs.  The proposed changes to the horse protection regulations would promote the humane treatment of walking and racking horses by more effectively ensuring that those horses that participate in exhibitions, sales, shows, or auctions are not sored.  This benefit is an unquantifiable animal welfare enhancement.  The proposed rule is not expected to adversely impact communities in which shows are held since walking and racking horse shows are expected to continue. 


This rulemaking is intended to reduce the risk of horses suffering pain and injury from the practice of soring without restricting the activities of horse owners and organizations that have no history of soring and for which the USDA does not consider soring to be a concern.

Action Date FR Cite
NPRM  07/26/2016  81 FR 49111   
NPRM Comment Period End  09/26/2016 
Final Rule  01/00/2017 
Additional Information: Additional information about APHIS and its programs is available on the Internet at http://www.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Undetermined  Government Levels Affected: None 
Small Entities Affected: Businesses, Organizations  Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No 
Agency Contact:
Rachel Cezar
Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer, Horse Protection Coordinator, Animal Care
Department of Agriculture
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
4700 River Road, Unit 84,
Riverdale, MD 20737
Phone:301 851-3746