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Sens. Warner, Ayotte Introduce Bipartisan Horse Protection Legislation

The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act seeks to protect horses from cruel training tactics

Aug 01 2013

With a USDA Inspector General report having revealed that some horse trainers are too often evading federal law requiring them to use humane training practices, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) announced today that they have introduced bipartisan legislation to protect horses from the cruel training tactic known as “soring” – which inflicts pain on horses’ forelegs to produce an accentuated show gait for competition. The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act strengthens the Horse Protection Act of 1970 by bolstering enforcement and increasing penalties, in accordance with the USDA Inspector General’s recommendations. A House version of the legislation was introduced in April by Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY).

“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.”

Although horses in the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry are known for possessing a smooth, natural gait, some exhibitors, owners, and trainers use inhumane training methods – “soring” – to produce a higher gait, which is accomplished by irritating or blistering a horse’s forelegs through the application of caustic chemicals such as mustard oil, cutting the horse’s hoof painfully short, or the use of mechanical devices to inflict pain, so that it hurts the horse to step down.

This legislation strengthens the Horse Protection Act by:

•             Increasing the penalties on an individual caught soring a horse from a misdemeanor to a felony, subject to three years jail time;

•             Increasing fines of up to $5,000 per violation, and for a third violation allowing permanent disqualification from participating in horse shows, exhibitions, sales, or auctions;

•             Prohibiting the use of action devices – such as chains that rub a sore leg – and pads on the horse breeds that have been the victims of soring. The bill does not prohibit the use of therapeutic pads, bell boots or quarter boots, or shoes that are used by other breeds in the horse industry, and it would have no impact in that respect on shows that do not include Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses, and Spotted Saddle Horses;

•             Eliminating industry self-policing and giving preference to licensed or accredited veterinarians, if available, to serve as show inspectors (the hiring of a licensed inspector would remain voluntary).

The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act does not cost the federal government any additional money. The legislation is broadly supported by several groups, including: the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Horse Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.