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Friday, August 02, 2013

Senate Bill Introduced to Step Up Horse Protection

Two U.S. Senators are asking their colleagues to work with them to crack down on the rampant cruelty of “soring” in Tennessee walking horse show competitions. This week, U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., introduced the bipartisan Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, S. 1406, which will fortify the four-decades-old federal Horse Protection Act and help strengthen law enforcement efforts to stop horse abuse. 

HorsesoringSoring is the deliberate infliction of pain to the hooves and legs of show horses—applying caustic chemicals to their pasterns (ankles), inserting hard or sharp objects into their sensitive hooves, and using other painful techniques to force an artificially high-stepping gait. It’s a form of cheating that gives those who engage in this abuse a competitive edge over owners and trainers who do not, as exposed by an HSUS undercover investigation in 2012 at the training barn of Jackie McConnell, one of the breed’s most celebrated trainers caught on camera beating a horse and painting chemicals on the legs to burn his flesh.

Despite enactment of the Horse Protection Act in 1970 to outlaw soring, there remain those in the Tennessee walking horse industry who continue the abusive practice and go to great lengths to avoid detection. Decades of corrupt industry self-regulation have fostered an environment in which unscrupulous trainers and owners subject horses to torturous practices for the sake of prize money and a blue ribbon, with industry inspectors routinely overlooking soring violations and issuing weak penalties.

“Whether riding, racing, hunting or training, horses have been a part of Virginia’s culture for 400 years,” said Senator Warner. “However, owners and breeders from across the Commonwealth agree that the deliberate act of inflicting pain on horses has no place in modern equestrian competition. Senator Ayotte and I are proud to introduce the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, which will give USDA the tools it needs to crack down on horse soring and end this cruel practice once and for all.”

“Horses hold a special place in the hearts of citizens across New Hampshire and the nation. These animals are an iconic part of our national heritage, and they must not be subjected to inhumane training practices that purposefully cause pain,” Senator Ayotte said. “This bipartisan legislation will help stop abusive tactics that deliberately harm horses, and I’m pleased to see that the bill has broad support among animal cruelty prevention organizations.”

The bill would amend the Horse Protection Act to end the industry’s failed system of self-policing, ban the use of devices implicated in the practice of soring, strengthen penalties, and make other reforms needed to finally end this torture. S. 1406 is the companion bill to H.R. 1518, introduced in April by U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., which now has 140 bipartisan cosponsors. This legislation also has the support of a diverse coalition of horse industry, veterinary, and animal protection organizations, including the American Horse Council, American Saddlebred Horse Association, United Professional Horsemen’s Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

We are grateful to Sens. Ayotte and Warner for introducing this important horse protection bill, and to Reps. Whitfield and Cohen for leading this effort in the House. Please contact your Senators and Representative today, and ask them to cosponsor the PAST Act to stamp out horse abuse.

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