AQHA Animal Welfare Rule Changes


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The AQHA Animal Welfare Commission met at the 2023 AQHA Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, and submitted several animal welfare-related rule-change recommendations to the AQHA Executive Committee, which approved them in April. These rule changes focus on revisions and updates to penalties, allowing the use of an approved lip cord in weanling halter classes, rules regarding the death of a horse at an AQHA-approved event and educational programming for animal welfare.

Here are the recommendations that were approved by the Executive Committee:

  • Keep the Conformation Alteration Task Force in place to identify funding mechanisms and continue to refine testing protocols and procedures for conformation alteration at AQHA World Shows.
  • Accept the Complaint and Reporting Task Force recommendations for the immediate implementation of: 
    • The recommended streamlined adjudication process for inhumane treatment violations; 
    • The update to the minimum levels of offense in VIO204.1-VIO204.20;
    • The revised AQHA Disciplinary Fine and Penalty Chart;
    • That all suspensions for inhumane treatment will trigger VIO657, a ban from AQHA show grounds;
    • That horses transferred out of the suspended persons name cannot be transferred back into their name until the probationary period resulting from their suspension is complete; and
    • That a suspended person cannot self-promote or be promoted by AQHA at any AQHA managed event.
  • Allow halter weanlings to be shown in an AQHA-approved lip cord or safety lead for immediate implementation.
  • Accept the task force recommendation to approve new AQHA Rule VIO207: In the case of a horse’s death as a result of an incident at an AQHA-approved event, AQHA will immediately appoint a three-person panel from the Animal Welfare Grievance Committee to review the incident. In conjunction with such investigation, a Responsible Party hereby agrees to cooperate with AQHA by (1) answering truthfully and promptly any inquiries; (2) providing medical/treatment records and post death reports/results (e.g. necropsy report) if any; and (3) authorizing any third parties to answer AQHA inquiries and provide the aforementioned records.
    VIO207.1 Subject to such panel’s review and recommendation, AQHA may temporarily suspend a Responsible Party as defined herein [see VIO250] pending AQHA’s further investigation of the horse’s death.
    VIO207.2 Should a temporary suspension be enforced a preliminary hearing will be held within two weeks of the horse’s death with the Responsible Part(ies), initial hearing panel and AQHA Staff.
  • Accept the task force recommendation to approve the mandatory necropsy rule as presented (April 13, 2023): This rule applies to fatalities of horses. For purposes of this rule, a “fatality” is defined as a death to any horse by any means including euthanasia at any time from when the horse/s arrives at the venue until the completion of the AQHA approved event or after the AQHA approved event where such fatal injury or illness is related to the horse’s presence at the AQHA approved event. This pertains to death on the grounds or death of horse transported to other facilities to seek care. 
  1. The trainer, owner or exhibitor as defined by AQHA rules, [see VIO250, Responsible Party], must notify the Steward or Show Manager as soon as possible but no later than one hour after such occurrence of any fatality. When a fatality occurs outside of competition hours, notification must occur as soon as possible but no later than one hour after the Steward/Show Manager reports to the show or returns to duty. 
  2. The Show Manager/Steward/Responsible Party must report a fatality to AQHA as soon as possible but no later than 24 hours after the incident as well as an explanation as to what happened to the horse. 
  3. If an official show veterinarian is not available, an on-call veterinarian or a veterinarian on the grounds shall be appointed to collect samples (blood, urine and/or vitreous fluid) at the earliest opportunity and submits the samples for analysis to the AQHA approved laboratory. (If the responsible party refuses the collection of samples, they are subject to temporary suspension pursuant to VIO207). 
  4. In addition to the duties set forth in SHW133, the Steward/Show Manager shall file an Equine Fatality Report Form with AQHA within 24 hours of notification, except in exceptional circumstances. 
  5. Show management must post emergency veterinary contact information as well as identify prior to the start of the competition the nearest Veterinary Pathology laboratory to facilitate a rapid and accurate post-mortem (information available at 
  6. A gross postmortem examination including histopathology must be performed in all incidents of euthanasia or fatality, except where the nearest Veterinary Pathology laboratory is further than 200 miles from where the equine fatality or euthanasia occurred. The trainer, owner or exhibitor as defined by AQHA rules, [see VIO250, Responsible Party] is responsible to transport the horse for the postmortem examination. If a horse is uninsured or a postmortem is not required by the owner’s insurance, AQHA will cover the cost of the gross postmortem and transport costs to the appropriate veterinary facility, up to a maximum in total of $1,000.00, unless a greater amount is pre-approved by AQHA should the circumstances warrant. If AQHA covers the cost of the postmortem and the relevant postmortem report is provided to the owner’s insurance, AQHA will only be responsible for half of the cost of the postmortem up to a maximum in total of $500.00. If a postmortem is required by the owner’s insurance, at no cost to AQHA, the horse’s owner shall provide AQHA a copy of the postmortem report within 24 hours of receipt of such report. (List of pathology laboratories can be found at (If responsible party refuses the necropsy, they are subject to temporary suspension pursuant to VIO207).
  7. In certain circumstances, as approved by AQHA Director of Breed Integrity, who may be contacted at 806-679-5693, a necropsy may not be warranted. (Add secondary contact number) 
  8. Within 12 hours of the horse leaving competition grounds, AQHA Show Management shall provide AQHA with the contact details of the applicable Veterinary Pathology laboratory. 
  9. The owner shall provide the preliminary and final reports of a postmortem to AQHA within 24 hours of the pathologist completing their report or the owner’s receipt of the report. Failure to submit reports could result in the temporary suspension to responsible party pursuant to VIO207. 
  10. The cause of death and, if relevant, the method of euthanasia should be included in the postmortem report. 
  11. The competition or treating veterinarian shall submit all information regarding any treatment or substance(s) administered to the horse prior to or during competition and before or during death or euthanasia with owner’s written permission to AQHA within 12 hours. Failure to submit reports could result in the temporary suspension to responsible party pursuant to VIO207. 
  12. Once all medical and treatment records and post death reports/results are forwarded to AQHA the Animal Welfare Grievance Committee will review within 72 hours to determine if further investigation is necessary. 
  • Cooperate with the United Horse Coalition to utilize its educational content to conduct educational programming about responsible ownership for AQHA members.

Recognizing that animal welfare is the single most important issue facing the equine industry today, the AQHA Executive Committee created the Animal Welfare Commission in 2012. The Animal Welfare Commission serves as AQHA’s primary body for rules, policies and procedures related to all areas of animal welfare. In addition, the commission oversees the educational processes associated with AQHA officials responsible for animal welfare.

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