In 1976, the Horse Protection Act was amended to add a third party inspection service, which is currently known as the HIO (Horse Industry Organization) system or DQP (Designated Qualified Person) system. Specifically, the USDA was tasked with prescribing regulation requirements for the appointment by management of any horse show or sale persons qualified to detect and diagnose whether a horse was sore within the meaning of the Act. Appointment of such persons provided that those qualified persons conduct inspections in a manner prescribed by the USDA, maintain and provide records to the USDA.

Basic qualifications of DQP applicants: DQPs hold a valid and current DQP license issued in accordance with this part may be appointed by the management of of any horse show, horse exhibition or horse sale to inspect horses to detect or diagnose soring and to otherwise inspect horses or any records pertaining to any horse for the purpose of enforcing the Act.

Individuals who may be licensed DQPs are:

      Doctors of veterinary medicine who are accredited in any state and who are (a) members of the AAEP; (b) large animal practitioners with substantial equine experience; (c) knowledgeable in the area of equine lameness as related to soring and soring practices AND farriers, horse trainers and other knowledgeable horsemen whose past experience and training would qualify them and who have been formally trained and licensed as DQPs as certified by the USDA.

The USDA will not license a DQP on an individual basis, but rather licensing is accomplished through DQP programs certified by the USDA and initiated and maintained by horse industry organizations or associations. HIOs must submit a formal request for certification providing the criteria for selecting DQP candidates and the minimum requirements and qualifications. Formal training, classroom and practical, is required and such training must meet the following minimum standards of the USDA:

      Two hours of classroom instruction on anatomy and physiology; two hours classroom instruction on the Horse Protection Act, federal regulations and their interpretation as furnished by the USDA; four hours of classroom instruction on the history of soring, examination procedures and related subjects; five hours of practical instruction in clinics and seminars utilizing live horses; one hour of classroom instruction regarding standards of conduct; oand ne hour of classroom instruction on record keeping and reporting requirements;

Thereafter, the individual must pass a written exam and apprentice two horse shows or sales before being allowed to inspect horses for soring . DQPs are required to undergo continuing education programs of not less than four hours each year.

Horse Industry Organizations cannot license any person as a DQP if such person has been convicted of violating the Horse Protection Act or paid any fine in settlement of a proceeding regarding a violation of the Horse Protection Act for a period of two years following such violation. A DQP cannot exhibit any horse at any horse show or horse sale or purchase any horse sold which he or she is appointed to inspect horses. A DQP cannot inspect horses at any horse show or sale in which horses owned by an immediate family member is competing or offered for sale.

The HIO/DQP system has been referred to as “the fox guarding the hen house”. However, you should be reminded that the USDA was tasked by congress with enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and also keep in mind that Horse Industry Organizations are required to issue a written warning to any DQP found violating the rules, regulations and procedures or otherwise carries out their duties in a less than satisfactory manner. The DQPs license must be canceled after a second violation. HIOs must meet the federal requirements. Failure to do so can lead to the HIO having their USDA certification revoked. I don’t think the fox guarding the hen house was in jeopardy of losing its certification and ultimately its position as guard.

Because the USDA is tasked with enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, it is the USDA’s responsibility to prosecute suspected violators. The USDA can prosecute based on information and evidence they personally collect as well as information and evidence collected by a HIO/DQP. Suspected violations found by a HIO/DQP that are not prosecuted by the USDA are not HPA violations. Suspected violations of the Horse Protection Act only if and when prosecuted by the USDA and found guilty by default or judgment are actual HPA violations. Many groups, such as HSUS, AVMA, AHC, would have you believe otherwise but their claims are blatantly false. When a horse show or sale participant enters a horse for show or sale at an event where a HIO/DQP has been hired, that participant agrees to be subject to that HIO’s rules which often include the prohibition of sore horses along with rules involving appropriate tack and attire. Let me repeat – HIO/DQP suspected violations and violations found are NOT violations of the Horse Protection Act unless and until successfully prosecuted by the USDA.

Horse show and sale participants who as suspected for violating the HPA are subject to both HIO/DQP fines and suspensions as well as prosecution by the USDA.

Any one relying solely on or stating that HIO/DQP violations are HPA violations are committing fraud.

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