WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to protect horses from the abusive practice known as “soring,” in which show horse trainers intentionally apply substances or devices to horses’ limbs to make each step painful and force an exaggerated high-stepping gait rewarded in show rings. Although federal law currently prohibits soring, a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General (IG) has found that some horse trainers often go to great lengths to continue this inhumane practice.
“Horses have been a part of our Commonwealth’s history and culture since the settling of Jamestown, and like all animals, they deserve to be treated with care and compassion,” said Sen. Warner. “The PAST Act will further protect these animals from the cruel practice of inflicting deliberate pain and suffering for show purposes.”
“I support the humane treatment of all animals and the responsible training of horses,” said Sen. Crapo. “I remain committed to ending the cruel practice of soring, and will continue to promote enforcement of current animal welfare laws.”
“The American Horse Council – the voice of the nation’s equine sector which directly supports nearly one million U.S. jobs and contributes $122 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – applauds the leadership of Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) for introducing the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act of 2019. Although “soring” – which is the practice of inflicting pain on a horse’s limb to produce an accentuated gait – has declined since Congress enacted the Horse Protection Act in 1970, the PAST Act will build on this progress by modernizing inspection and revising penalties for violations,” said Julie M. Broadway, President of the American Horse Council.
“VVMA applauds previous legislation aimed to halt the inhumane practices of soring of horses, and the PAST act will strengthen the ban on these practices. This important legislation is strongly supported by the veterinarians of Virginia," said Kelly Gottschalk, DVM, President of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association.
“Horse ‘soring’ is one of the worse cruelties imaginable – where scofflaw trainers deliberately torture Tennessee walking horses to get them to fling their front legs high, just to win a cheap blue ribbon in a show ring. It'd be like forcing an Olympian to wear broken glass in her shoes so the pain will make her leap higher over the hurdles,” said Sara Amundson, President of Humane Society Legislative Fund. “We are grateful to Senators Crapo and Warner for their leadership on the PAST Act, which has garnered overwhelming bipartisan cosponsors and support by the nation’s leading horse industry, veterinary, law enforcement and animal welfare groups. We urge Senate leadership to allow a floor vote soon to finally end this abuse.”
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act would:
- Eliminate self-policing by requiring the USDA to assign a licensed inspector if the show's management indicates intent to hire one. Licensed or accredited veterinarians, if available, would be given preference for these positions.
- Prohibit the use of action devices and pads on specific horse breeds that have a history of being the primary victims of soring. Action devices, such as chains that rub up and down an already-sore leg, intensify the horse's pain when it moves so that the horse quickly jolts up its leg.
- Increase consequences on individuals caught soring a horse, including raising the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony, which is subject to up to three years' incarceration, increasing fines from $3,000 to $5,000 per violation, and permanently disqualifying three-time violators from participating in horse shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions.
In 2017, the USDA Office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) moved to strengthen certain aspects of the Horse Protection Act by incorporating some of the major tenets of the PAST Act. However, the rule was not finalized before the end of the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration has halted the process. The PAST Act would codify these changes into law.
The PAST Act was previously introduced in 2018 by Sens. Warner and Crapo, and in 2015 by Sen. Warner and former Sen. Ayotte (R-NH). Original co-sponsors of this bill include Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Wyden (D-OR), and Bob Casey (D-PA).
Numerous groups have endorsed the bill, including the American Horse Council, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Virginia Veterinary Medical Association.