U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R - Kentucky), Rep. Steve Cohen (D - Tennessee), Rep. Joe Pitts (R -- Pennsylvania), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D -- Illinois), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R -- New Jersey) and Rep. Jim Moran (D -- Virginia) today introduced the Prevent all Soring Tactics (PAST) Act of 2013. The bill will amend the Horse Protection Act of 1970 to end the soring of horses, which is an abusive practice used by some horse trainers in the Tennessee Walking, Spotted Saddle, and Racking Horse shows.
"Far too often, those involved in showing the Tennessee Walking Horses have turned a blind eye to abusive trainers, or when they do take action, the penalties are so minor, it does nothing to prevent these barbaric acts," stated Whitfield. "This amendment does not cost the federal government any additional money and is essential in helping to put an end to the practice of soring by abusive trainers."
Rep. Cohen said, "In Tennessee, soring horses is illegal and unacceptable. Those responsible for abusing these horses should be punished severely and banned from the sport. How we treat animals is a direct reflection of our character, both as individuals and a nation. There is no ribbon, no prize nor championship worth the price of one's humanity."
Horses in these walking horse shows are known for possessing a smooth, natural gait, but in order to be successful in some competitions their natural gait is often artificially exaggerated through the soring process to ensure an extreme, high-stepping gait known as the "big lick" or "performance" gait, while showing. Soring is the irritating or blistering of a horse's forelegs through the application of caustic chemicals such as mustard oil, cutting the horse's hoof painfully short, or the use of mechanical devices to inflict pain, so that it hurts the horse to step down.
The USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit in 2010 of the Horse Protection Act Program, finding that trainers in the industry often go to great lengths to evade detection rather than comply with federal law and train horses using humane methods. The OIG made several recommendations, including stiffer penalties and abolishing the self-policing practices currently allowed under regulations, where the Horse Industry Organizations (HIOs) are able to assign their own inspectors to horse shows.
The proposed amendment is narrow in scope and affects only a small number of horses belonging to one of three breeds that are subjected to soring. There are three components to the amendment. First, it will end the failed system of industry self-policing by having the USDA assign licensed inspectors to oversee the shows if requested by horse show management. Secondly, for the three breeds specified in the bill that have been subjected to soring, it will ban the use of certain devices associated with soring, but the bill exempts pads and boots used for therapeutic purposes. Lastly, it will strengthen penalties for those violating the law.
The proposed amendment has widespread support. Below is a list of organizations supporting the bipartisan legislation.
American Horse Council
American Morgan Horse Association
American Paint Horse Association
Friends of Sound Horses
Gaitway Walking Horse Association (Missouri)
Mountain Pleasure Horse Association (Kentucky)
National Plantation Walking Horse Association
National Walking Horse Association
New York State Plantation Walking Horse Club
Northern California Walking Horse Association
Pennsylvania Pleasure Walking Horse Association
Pinto Horse Association of America
Plantation Walking Horse Association of California
Plantation Walking Horses of Maryland
Pure Pleasure Gaited Horse Association (Oklahoma)
Tennessee Walking Horse Association of Oklahoma
Yankee Walkers/Gaited Horse of New England (Maine/New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island/Connecticut, and Vermont)
Veterinary and Animal Welfare Support
Alicia Grossman, DVM
American Association of Equine Practitioners
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
American Veterinary Medical Association
Angela M. Dion, DVM
Animal Law Coalition
Animal Legal Defense Fund
Animal Welfare Institute
Benson B. Martin, DVM, Associate Professor Sports Medicine, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
Donna Preston Moore, DVM, former head of USDA's Horse Protection Program
Equine Welfare Alliance
Hanna Galantino-Homer, VMD, PHD
Harry Werner VMD , past president, American Association of Equine Practitioners
Homes for Horses Coalition
Humane Society Legislative Fund
Humane Society of the United States
Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association
Joy Tomlinson, DVM
Judith L. Ford, Veterinary Technician
Mary A. Robinson, VMD, PhD
Mary Lynn Stanton, DVM
Michelle Abraham (Resident) New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
Midge Leitch, VMD, former head of Radiology, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
Nat Messer, DVM, University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine
Sue Lindborg, CVT Research Specialist New Bolton Center
Susan Botts, DVM
Veterinarians for Equine Welfare