Press Releases

USDA Announced Proposed Rule Based on Warner-Ayotte Bill to Prevent Cruel Treatment of Horses

Warner, Ayotte Urged Release of Proposal to Stop Abuse, Systemic Failures

Jul 25 2016

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed rule to prevent the cruel treatment of horses by strengthening certain aspects of the Horse Protection Act. The proposed rule also incorporates major tenets of the bipartisan Warner- Ayotte legislation, The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S.1121), to eliminate the abusive practice known as “soring” – in which show horse trainers intentionally apply substances or devices to a horse's limb to make each step painful, forcing a horse to perform an exaggerated high-stepping gait that is rewarded in show rings. While soring is prohibited under federal law, a 2010 USDA Inspector General (IG) report found that some horse trainers often go to great lengths to continue this inhumane practice.

Warner and Ayotte wrote to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in April 2016 to urge the agency to quickly review and release the proposed rule. There will be a 60-day comment period following today’s announcement from USDA.

“Despite a federal ban on soring for over 40 years, this cruel practice continues in some segments of the walking horse industry,” Senator Warner said. “This proposed rule will make the changes necessary to crack down on those bad actors who continue to engage in soring.” 

“I am grateful for today’s announcement from USDA, especially since this week marks three years since Senator Warner and I first led the introduction of the PAST Act to prevent the cruel treatment of horses,” said Senator Ayotte. “I appreciate USDA taking horse soring seriously and making real reforms like those we outlined in our bill to prevent this inhumane practice.  We will continue to work across the aisle to help ensure that the PAST Act clears the Senate.”

USDA’s proposed rule contains reforms recommended in the 2010 USDA IG report and a number of provisions in the Ayotte-Warner PAST Act, including: 

  • Ending the failed horse industry self-policing system and instead requiring USDA to license and train inspectors to examine show horses upon request.
  • Banning the use of soring devices – such as chains that rub up and down the leg to cause a jolt of pain – for three breeds that are most often subjected to this cruel treatment.

Warner and Ayotte first introduced the PAST Act in 2013 and it passed the Commerce Committee in April 2014. They reintroduced the PAST Act in April 2015. The bill has been endorsed by a number of animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, the American Horse Council, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.