Senate Committee approves bill to protect horses from soring

Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly during horse soring inspections following an undercover operation by HSUS. Photo: HSUS.
Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly during horse soring inspections following an undercover operation by HSUS. Photo: HSUS.

HSUS PRESS RELEASE

Congress moved one step closer to protecting horses from the cruel practice of “soring” when the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S. 1406/H.R. 1518) today by voice vote. The PAST Act will end the decades-long abusive training method of soring, which involves the use of chemicals and devices on the legs and feet of Tennessee walking horses to force them to perform the high-stepping “Big Lick” gait.

Keith Dane, vice president of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, said: “Horse soring is a disgrace, but growing momentum for the PAST Act means that reform is within reach. Today’s committee action was a significant step forward. Congress should ensure a sound future for Tennessee walking horses by passing this legislation on the Senate floor without delay.”

The HSUS and Humane Society Legislative Fund expressed their thanks to Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., for their leadership on S. 1406, and to Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Ranking Member John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., for their support during today’s committee markup.

The PAST Act will fortify the federal Horse Protection Act, which was passed in 1970 but contained loopholes that have allowed soring to thrive in factions of the Tennessee walking horse industry. The bill’s needed reforms include eliminating the failed industry self-policing system, banning devices used in the soring process from the show ring, and strengthening penalties to provide a meaningful deterrent against abusing horses to cheat at horse shows.

The PAST Act is co-sponsored by 51 Senators and 269 Representatives. It is endorsed by the American Horse Council and more than 50 other national and state horse groups, the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, and state veterinary groups in all 50 states, key individuals in the Tennessee walking horse show world, and many others.

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New TV ads call for passage of federal bill to end horse soring

The Humane Society of the United States’ national ad campaign begins in Kentucky, urges support of H.R. 1518/S. 1406, the PAST Act

HSUS PRESS RELEASE

Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly during horse soring inspections following an undercover operation by HSUS. Photo: HSUS.
Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly during horse soring inspections following an undercover operation by HSUS. Photo: HSUS.

A new television advertising campaign urges viewers to call their federal lawmakers and ask them to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 1518/S. 1406. The ads began airing in Kentucky on Sunday, urging viewers to call Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and ask them to support the PAST Act. The ad campaign will expand to other media markets around the country in the coming weeks.

The commercial is the latest effort by The Humane Society of the United States to urge Congress to pass the bill that would end soring, the cruel practice of inflicting pain to horses’ legs and feet to force them to perform an exaggerated high-stepping gait—known as the “Big Lick”—at horse shows. The Senate bill has been introduced by their Republican colleague Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and it has 51 cosponsors. The House bill has 268 cosponsors.

The bill will fortify an existing federal law, the Horse Protection Act, which was passed in 1970 to eliminate the abuse of Tennessee walking horses and other similar breeds, but is so weak that cheating and violations have been rampant for decades. The PAST Act would end the failed industry self-policing system; ban the show-ring use of chains, stacks, and excessively heavy shoes (devices that are part and parcel of the soring process); and increase penalties for violators.

Pam Rogers, Kentucky state director for The HSUS, said: “Kentucky is the heart of horse country in the U.S., and Senators McConnell and Paul should support this critical legislation to protect horses from the cruelty of soring. No other breeds are subjected to this kind of intentional form of torture, and it is a disgrace that it exists anywhere. Only an upgrade of the federal law will put an end to the horrible horse abuse that still plagues the ‘Big Lick’ show world.”

The “Big Lick” segment of the industry worked with Rep. Marsha Blackburn to introduce a sham bill that would protect horse soring and further complicate USDA enforcement of the anachronistic law on the books. Senator Paul recently told one newspaper he was considering introducing a companion bill in the Senate.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, said: “Senator Paul would only bring shame on himself to stand in the way of legislation to root out this form of malicious and intentional cruelty to horses. It is time for him to join a majority of his House and Senate colleagues and stand against people who put burning chemicals on the legs of horses to cause them pain and misery in order to win ribbons for themselves.”

In 2011, an HSUS investigation into Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s stable in Collierville, Tenn., revealed shocking cruelty to horses to a national audience, which led to the introduction of the PAST Act. The investigator recorded horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face and intentionally burned with caustic chemicals. The new commercial shows footage from this investigation.

The narrator in the commercial, quoting recent editorials in the Tennessean, states “The Horse Protection Act bans soring but is “not sufficient,” and industry cheaters have “decades of violations.” “Republicans and Democrats, responsible horse breeders, trainers, and veterinarians support a bill to strengthen the law and stop abusers from getting away with these crimes.”

The PAST Act is endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association (and every other state veterinary medical association), the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and the American Horse Council, along with a host of other national animal protection, veterinary, and horse industry organizations.

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Federal Appeals court asked to uphold regulations protecting Tennessee Walking horses

HSUS PRESS RELEASE

Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly during horse soring inspections following an undercover operation by HSUS. Photo: HSUS.
Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly during horse soring inspections following an undercover operation by HSUS. Photo: HSUS.

Regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prevent the cruel practice of horse “soring” are being challenged in federal appeals court, prompting the Humane Society of the United States to file a friend-of-the-court brief.

The HSUS is asking the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to uphold the regulations, which require uniform mandatory minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act. The district court in Texas previously ruled against the plaintiffs and upheld the regulations.

The Horse Protection Act prohibits the showing and transporting of horses who have been “sored,” which involves the application of caustic chemicals and other painful training methods used to force horses to perform an artificially high-stepping gait for show competitions. Horse industry organizations are the industry’s self-policing groups that operate alongside the USDA to conduct inspections at Tennessee walking horse competitions.

The USDA finalized the uniform penalties regulations in 2012 and were met with a lawsuit from a horse industry organization, SHOW, Inc., and two participants in horse shows.

The appellants in the current appeal include the individual horse show participants but not SHOW. Their arguments have already been rejected by the district court, and The HSUS’ brief makes clear that they have no legal foundation.

Photo not filed with this Release.

Efforts to block horse slaughter in the US will continue

HSUS PRESS RELEASE
November 1, 2013

HSUS Logo. Google image.

A federal judge in the court case regarding horse slaughter in the U.S. has reversed course from her initial ruling and cleared the way for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections of horse slaughter plants in several states.

The Humane Society of the United States will not only appeal the decision, but also work with the states to block the plants from opening in Iowa, Mo., and N.M. and step up its efforts in Congress to stop the slaughter of American horses—the states and also in Canada and Mexico.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, said:

“Our legislative and legal activities have prevented horse slaughtering on American soil since 2007. With today’s court ruling and the very real prospect of plants resuming barbaric killing of horses for their meat in the states, we expect the American public to recognize the urgency of the situation and to demand that Congress take action. Court fights and state legislative battles have been important, but this is an issue of national importance and scale, and Congress should have an up-or-down vote on the subject.”

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