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Public Statements

Introducing the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. WHITFIELD. Mr. Speaker, in 1970, Congress passed and President Nixon signed into law the Horse Protection Act (HPA) for the purpose of ending ``soring'' that was occurring in Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse, and Spotted Saddle Horse shows. The term soring refers to the application of blistering or burning agents, lacerations, sharp objects, or other substances or devices to a horse's limb to produce an exaggerated high-stepping show ring gait, by making it painful for the horse to step down.

Since the passage of this legislation more than forty years ago, the act of ``soring'' has continued at an alarming rate. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has lacked the resources to send agency officials to every Tennessee Walking Horse, Spotted Saddle Horse and Racking Horse show. As a result, USDA gave Horse Industry Organizations (HIOs) the responsibility to train and license their own inspectors, commonly known as Designated Qualified Persons (DQP's), to conduct inspections at these events.

The USDA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently conducted an audit 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 HIOs are able to assign their own inspectors to horse shows. More recently, an undercover investigation showed that trainers continue to sore horses and enter them into shows undetected, even while the trainers are on federal disqualification. HIOs' inspectors are turning a blind eye to the soring of horses, despite the fact that they are licensed to enforce the 1970 law that prohibits this practice. These and other investigations show massive abuse throughout the Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse, and Spotted Saddle Horse industries, demeaning the once highly-regarded sport and threatening jobs in these industries, as well as the economic activity associated with their shows that is so important to communities in my state and elsewhere.

Therefore, the bill that I am introducing today, the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act of 2013, amends the Horse Protection Act of 1970 to direct USDA to license, train, assign, and oversee persons who are to be hired by event managers to inspect horses at Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse, and Spotted Saddle Horse events for evidence of soring. 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 bill carries the support of the American Horse Council, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, several walking horse organizations, and others.

I urge all my colleagues to join me in cosponsoring this common sense piece of legislation.

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