AQHA Approves Animal-Welfare Related Rule Changes stock photo © Five Furlongs

AQHA Approves Animal-Welfare Related Rule Changes, Penalties

The American Quarter Horse Association has approved stronger penalties for those who violate animal welfare rules.
The Executive Committee met during the association’s April meeting and looked at a variety of issues surrounding the welfare of the horse. Some of the issues were brought to light by a group of more than 3000 concerned Quarter Horse owners that formed a coalition called PROTECT THEM.
Here is a rundown of the specific changes:
Fines and Penalties
AQHA rules VIO204 and VIO220 AQHA Show Fines and Penalties Regarding Abuse and Unsportsmanlike Conduct have been amended to include stiffer fines and penalties for violators of the Association’s animal welfare rules.

Besides broader fine ranges, the new fines and penalties also include mandatory probation for any Level 1 second offense or higher citations. The following statement was also added:

All fines and penalties are cumulative and run consecutively in the case of multiple offenses.”

Any offense – including a white warning card – results in the violator’s name being placed in a database that is immediately accessible by all AQHA stewards.

“If someone gets a white warning card at a show and three days later is stopped by a steward at a different show for violating an animal welfare rule, the steward will check the database and find that person’s previous violation,” said AQHA President Dr. Glenn Blodgett.

The Executive Committee also approved a recommendation to publicize information on AQHA’s website regarding animal welfare rule violators, the name of the horse or horses involved, the names of the responsible parties, and the fines and penalties assessed.
That news will appear on AQHA’s website after cases are ruled on by an AQHA hearing committee.
Tail Restriction

The Executive Committee also approved updates to AQHA Rule VIO204.14, which makes tying a tail to restrict its movement a minimum Level 1 offense. Any appliance that restricts circulation is a Level 3 offense.

This rule goes into effect immediately.

The association states that earlier this year, positive drug tests detecting clenbuterol in American Quarter Horse racehorses have resulted in significant penalties. That policy has now been expanded to put an end to the abusive use of clenbuterol in show horses as well. The new penalties begin in the show ring November 1, 2015, just in time for the 2015 AQHA World Championship Show.

A bronchodilator marketed as Ventipulmin, clenbuterol is a valuable medication used by veterinarians to treat horses with breathing difficulties. According to the AQHA, its use has gotten out of hand because of its ability to act as a beta-2 agonist to increase muscle mass when used in dosages exceeding recommended amounts.

“Part of leveling the playing field in the show industry includes doing away with the illegal and illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs,” Dr. Blodgett said. “It all comes down to protecting our horses.”

The fines and penalties for positive drug tests for detection of clenbuterol will be the same in both industries. Those fines and penalties begin May 1, 2015, for racing and November 1, 2015, for the show industry.
The first offense of a positive clenbuterol test in either a racehorse or show horse is a $5,000 fine and 180-day suspension of the responsible party. The second offense carries a $7,500 fine and a one-year suspension of the responsible party. The third offense results in a five-year suspension of the responsible party.
Lip Chains
The use of lip chains at AQHA events (current AQHA Rule SHW355.4) will be prohibited as of January 1, 2016.
“While many of our halter exhibitors lobbied in favor of lip chains at the 2015 convention, the Executive Committee members – based on input from the Animal Welfare Commission, the Show Committee and Show Council – believe that the use of lip chains in halter classes is not the intended use for lip chains – especially in the hands of novice exhibitors. It’s simply not humane,” Dr. Blodgett said.
The AQHA states, “the[se] actions exemplify the Association taking a stand on animal welfare for the protection of the horse and for the future of the breed.”