The Horse Protection Act has to be enforced. To that end, APHIS
(Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) set up the Designated Qualified Person (DQP) system. These people are U.S. department of Agriculture (USDA) accredited experts: veterinarians with horse experience, farriers, trainers, or others who have the necessary knowledge to inspect horses and make sure that sored horses cannot be in the ring. Managers of a sale or show hire the DQPs. They are called upon to physically inspect every Tennessee walking horse or racking horse before they can be sold or exhibited or shown. APHIS inspectors are organized into teams to attend shows, unannounced, and inspect horses. What if they find a horse that has been sored? They report this violation of the law to management; management then disqualifies the sored horses before any prizes are awarded in a show or before the poor horses are viewed by potential buyers. What do these teams look for? Here are the three parts of the examination as summarized in the APHIS Factsheet on the Horse Protection Act:
- “An evaluation of the horse’s movement
- Observation of the horse’s appearance during inspection
- Physical examination the horse’s forelegs from the knee to the hoof”
The inspectors look closely at the “area of the coronet band, the anterior pastern areas, the ‘pocket’ of the posterior pastern area, and the bulb of the heel.” These places are where the horse is apt to be sored. Horribly, there may be present “abnormal tissue damage, swelling, pain, abrasions, or oozing of blood or serum.” Inspectors will evaluate the horse’s shoeing, and search out devices that are heavy or used wrong. As a horse is worked, heavy devices continally banging on the horse’s pastern can cause soring. Because sorers have become more inventive over the years, inspectors use sophisticated technology with which to test: gas chromatography/mass spectrometry which can discover the composition of chemicals applied to the legs, and thermography, which can reveal abnormalities by measuring the temperature of the horse’s legs. When sorers are identified, those who defy the Horse Protection Act, civil or criminal charges are preferred against the violator. If these men or women are convicted, they can go to prison for up to two years and in addition, receive penalties of up to $5000. Disqualification for one or more years is also possible and additional penalties of up to $2200 or more. Persons who have been disqualified cannot participate in any way in horse shows. They are allowed to attend them, though. Next time, what went wrong with this system?