The report said that APHIS employees attend very few horses and that, when they do, APHIS employees routinely bring armed security or the police with them in the interest of their personal safety.
In the executive summary of the audit, OIG recommended that APHIS "seek the necessary funding from Congress for the Horse Protection Program, as the current level of funding does not enable the agency to oversee it adequately. Given the weaknesses in the inspection process, APHIS employees need to attend more shows to ensure that horses are inspected adequately."
OIG's review of the slaughter horse transport program found that, in their view, APHIS needs to improve its controls for ensuring that horses being shipped to foreign plants for slaughter are treated humanely. At present, the summary said, "APHIS does not deny authorization to individuals with a record of inhumanely transporting slaughter horses to ship other loads of horses, even if unpaid fines are pending for previous violations. Regulations simply do not address denying this authority, and so APHIS provides the authorization, regardless of the owner’s history. Without regulations or legislation to establish more meaningful penalties, owners have little incentive to comply with regulations, pay their penalties, and cease inhumanely handling horses bound for slaughter."
Finally, OIG found that there were "control deficiencies in how APHIS tags horses that have been inspected and approved for shipment to foreign slaughterhouses. The agency requires shippers to mark such horses with backtags, which are intended to allow APHIS employees to trace horses back to their owner and also to verify that the horses have passed inspection by an accredited veterinarian. We found, however, that the agency’s controls over these tags were weak, and that owners could easily obtain them and apply the tags to horses without APHIS’ knowledge."
In addition, APHIS "does not currently have an effective control or tracking system to trace all backtags used to transport horses to slaughter. Without regulations controlling the distribution, use, and tracking of these tags, owners can transport horses that do not meet the requirements for shipment. APHIS needs to seek the appropriate legislative and regulatory changes to ensure that only qualified individuals (such as APHIS personnel or USDA-accredited veterinarians) apply backtags to horses being shipped to slaughter. It also needs to obtain the resources necessary to adequately oversee the Slaughter Horse Transport Program."
1. Abolish the current DQP system and establish by regulation an inspection process based on independent accredited veterinarians, and obtain the authority, if needed, to charge show managers the cost of providing independent, accredited veterinarians to perform inspections at sanctioned horse shows, sales, and other horse-related events.
2. Implement a control to ensure that individuals suspended from horse shows, sales, or exhibitions due to Horse Protection Act violations do not participate in subsequent events.
3. Seek the necessary funding to adequately oversee the Horse Protection
4. Revise and enforce regulations to prohibit horses disqualified as sore from competing in all classes at a horse show, exhibition, or other horse-related event.
5. Revise Slaughter Horse Transport Program regulations to allow APHIS to deny shipping documents to individuals who repeatedly violate humane handling regulations and who have fines outstanding.
6. Develop and maintain a control (database or list) of all individuals who have violated the regulations of the Slaughter Horse Transport Program and have not paid the associated fines.
7. Revise regulations or implement adequate controls to ensure that APHIS provides backtags to qualified personnel who can inspect horses bound for slaughter and apply, or oversee the application of, backtags when approving transport documentation.
8. Develop and implement an appropriate control to track individual horses by backtag number on all shipping documents approved so that reconciliation can be performed, violations can be investigated, and enforcement action can be initiated against the horse’s owner and shipper.
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