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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Regulating Sales Won't Work

There have been quite a few responses to my blog entry regarding the horse sold injured through an auction, both on the blog and elsewhere. One of the most vocal comments I received was "Where was the USTA? How could they allow this to happen?"

It's easy, the USTA doesn't have control of auctions or who conducts a standardbred auction. This is the purview of the free market system and like it or not, horses are legally considered property and auctions clearly state horses are sold "as-is"; it is the bidders responsibility to examine horses before bidding. The USTA can't force auctions to refuse to sell horses who are injured.

Some would say, why doesn't the USTA operate its own sale(s)? First of all, operating a sale doesn't fall under the USTA's responsibilities. Ignoring this fact, even if the USTA operated their own sale with a standard which would have prevented this injured horse and others like her to go through the sales ring (and possibly require a minimum bid to discourage kill buyers), they could not refuse to register a horse sold through a non-USTA sale as you would be dealing with anti-trust issues.

The best the USTA could do is set voluntary standards for sales to follow and allow those who meet these standards to advertise they are "USTA Approved". Such a standard could require amongst other standards a requirement that the sale have a veterinarian examine each horse before they enter the sales ring and if sufficiently injured, declare them an 'Out'; refusing to sell it. To keep kill buyers from the sale, another standard could be to require a sale to have a minimum bid sufficient to discourage kill buyers.

Having a USTA approved sale designation may not be a bad idea but don't think this will solve the problem. Let's say a sale was USTA approved and an injured horse was blocked from the sale by the sale's veterinarian. It would be nice to think the owner would go back home with the horse and let it heal before trying to sell the horse once again, but what is to keep the owner from selling the horse to a kill buyer at the sale afterwards or sending the horse to a non-USTA approved sale? A minimum bid? Same thing; either a behind the scenes sale can take place or the horse may be sent directly to a non-approved sale or a grade sale where it is even more likely to end up in the hands of a kill buyer.

While a USTA approved sale may be a good idea as it would allow the USTA to make a policy statement, it isn't going to solve the shortcoming sales may have. That responsibility falls to the state and federal governments. Until the government steps in and decides horses deserve special protections, someone determined to unload an injured horse or sell a horse at a price low enough to attract kill buyers will be able to do so,

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