Federal Appeals court asked to uphold regulations protecting Tennessee Walking horses


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.

AVMA and AAEP urge strong enforcement of HPA at Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration

Horse soring inspection. HSUS image.
Horse soring inspection. HSUS image.
The AVMA and AAEP urge strong enforcement of the Horse Protection Act at this year’s Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Inspections are being conducted by the USDA and certain approved horse industry inspectors, some of which decertification is pending for reporting inaccurate numbers of incidents of soring. Extra vigilance is being called for by everyone connected with the show. HSUS image.

By American Veterinary Medical Association

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Aug. 23, 2012 — /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) urge veterinarians, owners, trainers, riders, event spectators, media and the public to redouble their efforts to identify and report sored horses at this year’s Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn. This includes reporting suspected soring activity in barns and training facilities in the Shelbyville area.

The AVMA and AAEP are urging vigilance because of concerns that sored horses will be participating at the Celebration.

For more than 40 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has worked diligently to enforce the Horse Protection Act (HPA), which prohibits soring. The USDA recently took another step toward ending soring by instituting mandatory penalties for violators.

SHOW, a horse industry organization (HIO) that will be inspecting horses during this year’s Celebration, is one of three HIOs for which the USDA is pursuing decertification, citing failure to comply with USDA mandatory penalties.

Despite SHOW’s claim of a 98.5 percent compliance rate with the HPA at events they inspect, USDA swab tests on 52 horses at the 2011 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration resulted in 52 positive findings for foreign substances.

According to the USDA, 37 of the 52 horses tested positive for one or more anesthetic agents. Anesthetic agents are frequently used to mask pain from soring during inspections.

In addition, three of the seven individuals listed as judges for this year’s Celebration have been cited for soring violations in years past.

“Soring is a federal crime in addition to being a felony offense in Tennessee,” said Dr. Doug Aspros, president of the AVMA. “It is up to each of us—veterinarians, inspectors, judges, owners, trainers, riders and even spectators at these shows—to take responsibility for ending soring. There must be zero tolerance for this abuse. While soring clearly violates the Horse Protection Act, failing to report soring is also ethically and professionally indefensible. We urge anyone with concerns to contact the USDA and local law enforcement officials.”

To heighten awareness and address failures in industry self-policing, the presidents of the AVMA and AAEP are issuing a joint call-to-action encouraging all veterinarians to aggressively identify and report violators of the Horse Protection Act and supporting strong USDA enforcement.

Related resource materials are available on AVMA and AAEP websites at http://www.avma.org/soring and http://www.aaep.org/soring_position.htm.

Report suspected cases of sored horses to:

Dr. Rachel Cezar USDA/APHIS Horse Protection Coordinator 301-734-5784 rachel.cezar@aphis.usda.gov


Shelbyville/Bedford County CrimeStoppers 931-685-4300


Source: Press Release

HSUs image. Image not filed with Press Release.

Tenn. horse inspectors say USDA is de-certifying them over soring case

Horse soring radiograph. USDA image.
Horse soring radiograph. USDA image.
Some 49 nails were used to hold the pads together on this Tennessee Walking Horse. Horse soring is the practice of inflicting pain on a horse’s legs or hooves by chemical or mechanical means to produce the exaggerated high-stepping gait that wins top prizes at shows. USDA image.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee walking horse group that is suing the U.S. Agriculture Department over new rules to stop soring says it has received notice of decertification from the USDA.

The SHOW Horse Industry Organization needs the certification to perform inspections at horse shows. It received the notice after failing to meet a July deadline to adopt tougher inspection rules.

The decertification process is not complete, and SHOW said in a news release on Tuesday that it will have inspectors at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration later this month in Shelbyville. Continue reading at TimesNews.net >>

Image not filed with original report.

Honest horse groups would cooperate when it comes to soring

Horse soring inspection. HSUS image.
Horse soring inspection. HSUS image.
A horse is inspected for soring. The USDA is undermanned and underfunded, and currently must rely on certain horse groups to conduct inspections necessary to enforce the Horse Protection Act. HSUS image.

Finding cooperation among the USDA and the groups certified by the agency to conduct inspections to enforce the Horse Protection Act and eliminate the soring of Tennessee Walking horses can be a big challenge.

Currently the USDA is forced to use outside inspectors because they are undermanned and underfunded.

In an OpEd for The Tennessean, the writer states:

    “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has wisely taken the first step toward decertification of three organizations that are supposed to regulate the walking horse industry. It should not let any outlandish claims from the foot-dragging groups distract it from this path.

    “SHOW Inc. is one of the three, out of 12 horse industry groups, who did not submit amended rule books to federal officials by a July 9 deadline. The rule changes focus on implementing tough mandatory penalties for soring and other abuse of show horses.

SHOW responds in a recently released statement:

“SHOW … has enforced stricter penalties than even the federal government, but this rule was written in a way that allows soring trainers to continue showing their horses, something to which we are totally opposed,” the statement said, quoting SHOW’s Dr. Stephen Mullins.

The OpEd, addressing this, responds:

    “There’s a term for this sort of logic: gaslighting. The USDA accuses you of being lax on soring? Just turn the tables; accuse the USDA of being lax … maybe it will stick.”

Concluding with:

    In a few weeks, the biggest event of the year, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, starts in Shelbyville. SHOW will be there, but so will federal inspectors. If, as SHOW suggested this week, the success of the Celebration will be affected, it will not be because of federal intervention, but because industry groups have had most of a year to do something about horse abuse, and failed miserably.

There’s more to this story, including a lawsuit filed by SHOW against the USDA alleging “the minimum penalty requirement is unconstitutional”.

Interesting in comments is a question I think anyone seeing the undercover footage by the HSUS of Jackie McConnell abusing and beating horses the Tennessee Walkers he trains. Why did it take the corporatized mega animal rights’ group a year to release it?

” . . . the people I have talked to said they would have called the authorities right then instead of waiting a year. After all didn’t Keith [Dane] say what he did was about the horses and they were being tortured every day and then knowing he had video that could stop it he waited a year before he released it.

— OpEd Source: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120803/OPINION01/308030054/Honest-horse-groups-would-cooperate

— Comment Source: http://www.tennessean.com/comments/article/20120803/OPINION01/308030054/Honest-horse-groups-would-cooperate


Chemical soring is the process of putting acidic products and irritating chemicals on a horse’s legs causing pain so the horse lifts his or her legs in an exaggerated fashion commonly called the “Big Lick”.

Mechanical soring includes the use of pressure shoeing causing pain to the bottom of the horse’s feet, again so the horse will lift his or her legs higher.

The practice of soring is most commonly found among gaited horses such as the Tennessee Walking Horse.