WASHINGTON, DC – No attorney practicing law in America today is more knowledgeable than Russ Gaspar when it comes to the “scar rule”, the Horse Protection Act and the federal regulations regarding it.
Russ Gaspar entered the arena once again last week to “Protect The Horses” when he wrote to U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on behalf of his clients AHPA (American Horse Protection Association) and FOSH (Friends of Sound Horses), addressing the subject of the USDA’s 2014 Scar Rule Enforcement Protocol and other matters.
Gaspar was responding to letters written by sore Big Lick attorney Phillip Kunkel (apparently paid for by Duke Thorson). Kunkel threatened the USDA over its current enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. The Licker lawyer asked for a meeting in Washington “in order to restore the integrity of the horse inspection system which is at the heart of the HPA.”
In his letter to Secetary Vilsack dated April 2, 2014, and letters to Office of General Counsel and Office of Inspector General dated April 18, 2014, Phillip Kunkel specifically protested the USDA’S 2014 scar rule standards, and the use of Science Based Objective Inspection Thermography.
The sore side is upset that the USDA VMOs are taking a “no nonsense approach” with the DQPs in communicating the standards by which horses are to be inspected.
Kunkel attached an April 8, 2014, Affidavit by SHOW Head DQP Mitchell Butler “telling on” the courageous VMOS who are using the Science Based Objective Inspections of Thermography to find the scars caused by training Horses with chains. The VMOs are also using their “eyes” to see the wrinkles from scars which have been removed by surgery or salicylic acid.
The Lickers don’t think wrinkles should be considered “scars”.
PSHA legal Advisor Frank Eichler wrote a letter to Secretary Vilsack dated April 24, 2014, and copied U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Representatives Hal Rogers (R-KY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Hal Lucas (R-OK). Eichler suggested that the USDA ignore the fact that the PAST ACT was before Congress. Eichler requested the USDA to immediately go ahead and adopt the specifics of Senator Alexander’s Bill and grant the Celebration crowd, whose SHOW HIO is being decertified by the USDA, a new “Independent” HIO to be headed up by, who else, former Celebration CEO Doyle Meadows.
Addressing Kunkel’s letters, on May 6, 2014, Russ Gaspar wrote Secretary Vilsack, “It is USDA’s right and obligation to determine how to enforce the act”. “After decades of perpetuating soring” the PSHA could not claim its view of the Law trumped the USDA’s informed judgment and interpretation of the Horse Protection Act and Regulations”.
Gaspar continued, “PSHA’s assertion that using thermography to detect soring is ‘not an objective inspection protocol’ is both plainly wrong and patently hypocritical. For years one of the principal big-lick attacks against USDA’s soring and scar rule enforcement has been that the inspection process is ‘subjective’ and not scientific. Having demanded scientific objectivity, the members of PSHA are now unhappy they’ve gotten it.”
Butler’s April 8, 2014, Affidavit is markedly different from the Purple Strategies statement issued on September 30, 2013 which quoted Butler as follows:
“Working with the USDA we are making incredible progress in ensuring that the walking horse is protected and the integrity of the sport maintained,” said SHOW HIO Head Designated Qualified Person (DQP) Mitchell Butler. The statement went on to say, “SHOW is the HIO that manages inspections at The Celebration in partnership with the USDA.”
It appears six months later the “partnership” has become rather frayed.
This desperate “Power Play” by the sore Big Lickers, and the determined resistance by the Flatters, represented by Russ Gaspar will be interesting to watch in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Russ Gaspar has been at this for over 27 years.
He was instrumental in turning out the lights in 1988 at the National Trainers Show in Decatur, Alabama when U. S. District Judge Oliver Gasch temporarily removed the pads and chains. Gaspar’s advocacy and Judge Gasch’s rulings led to a reduction in the size of the chain from 8 and 10 ounces to 6 ounces. He has weighed in on all the operating plans, formating regulations on the scar rule throughout the years .
In 2012 when the Celebration/TWSHO/PSHA/S.H.O.W. HIO sued the USDA in Federal Court in Texas trying to stop the mandatory “Minimum Penalties”, Russ Gaspar filed an influential Friend of The Court brief on behalf of his Sound clients. It was highly effective in informing U. S. District Court Judge Terry Means of another perspective besides that of the sore Celebration crowd vs a federal agency dynamic.
In July 2013, Judge Means decisively upheld the USDA on Summary Judgment.
On January 9, 2014, the USDA filed Complaint to decertify against Celebration Chairman David L. Howard Celebration’s S.H.O.W. HIO.
HERE IS RUSSELL GASPAR’S MAY 6, 2014 LETTER
Nephew Eugene thinks the sore Lickers better plan to come early and stay late if they are going up against Russ Gaspar.