Sales Integrity Program Committee Addresses Concerns Over Surgery Disclosure

The monitoring committee for the Sales Integrity Program is taking action to address some consignors' concerns about how the Thoroughbred auction industry will handle the disclosure of invasive joint surgeries and other procedures designed to permanently change a horse's conformation.

Disclosure is a provision of the industry's new code of ethics, and it is mandatory beginning with foals of 2005, which will be offered at public auction for the first time later this year as weanlings. The monitoring group is appointing a committee that will work out the details of implementing the surgical disclosure requirement.

According to Reynolds Bell, the chairman of the monitoring committee, the group received a "number of letters" from consignors who raised questions about issues such as how the auction industry would keep track of surgeries on horses offered in multiple sales throughout their lifetimes--one suggestion was a central data base--and how long disclosure of surgeries would be required for a particular animal as it ages. For example, if a filly had undergone surgery as a yearling, would the procedure have to be disclosed many years later when she was sold as a broodmare?

"Their concerns were well-presented," Bell said, and the monitoring committee determined that there had not been enough discussion about the details involved in implementing the surgical disclosure requirement when the Sales Integrity Task Force, headed by Dogwood Stable president Cot Campbell, developed the code of ethics last year. The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association organized the task force last summer in response to complaints about the auction business from the Alliance for Industry Reform and its founder, Satish Sanan of Padua Stables.

Reynolds said the implementation committee that will look into consignors' concerns will be made up of sellers, monitoring committee members, legal counsel for the Sales Integrity Program, auction company officials, and members of the task force's veterinary committee. The work of the implementation committee is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 1.

Bell didn't anticipate any delay in the implementation of the surgical disclosure requirement.

"At this point, we will be proceeding as was originally planned," he said.

The monitoring committee's meeting, which was held July 13, was its first one. Campbell announced the committee's formation last December when the code of ethics was presented to the industry. The committee's members are Bell, a Kentucky bloodstock agent; Fred Seitz of Brookdale Farm in Kentucky; and Sanan. All participated in the meeting's conference call that also included Dan Metzger, the president of TOBA, which oversees the Sales Integrity Program and is publicizing the code of ethics and handling the details of its implementation.

"The code of ethics is a work in progress," Bell said. "Has everything gone perfectly? No. But 90% to 95% of it has been done exactly the way the task force anticipated it."