WASHINGTON —U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) have again reintroduced the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act to protect horses from the abusive show practices. Soring is a process by which 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 prohibits soring, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General (IG) report found that some horse trainers continue this inhumane practice.
“For over 400 years, horses have been a quintessential part of Virginia’s culture and history,” said Senator Warner. “I am proud to reintroduce the bipartisan PAST Act, which would protect horses from mistreatment and abuse by increasing penalties for individuals who engage in the harmful and deliberate practice of soring.”
“I support the humane treatment of all animals and the responsible training of horses,” said Senator Crapo. “Soring is cruel and inhumane and I remain committed to ending its practice. The PAST Act would finally end this horrible training operation.”
“There is simply nothing good to be said for a sporting event that relies on the deliberate torment of horses in the training barns to produce the desired high stepping gait in the show ring,” said Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “Soring is a furtive cruelty that we can root out altogether with this measure, in this Congress. No more self-policing by participants. No more reliance on devices integral to soring. No more anemic penalties. We’ve been waiting half a century for the straight shot that stops this wicked practice, and Senators Crapo and Warner have given it to us. The many legislators who have backed this bill have put their political weight on the right side of history, and put the Senate in position to save the Tennessee walking horse industry from its scofflaw elements. We’re banking that their bipartisan push for the PAST Act will be the coup de grace that puts soring out to pasture forever.”
“On behalf of the U.S. horse industry, which supports nearly one million U.S. jobs and contributes $122 billion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the American Horse Council applauds the leadership of Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) for re-introducing the bipartisan Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act of 2021. This important bill builds on progress made toward improved treatment of horses since enactment of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) of 1970,” said Julie Broadway, President of the American Horse Council. “The PAST Act outlines a common-sense solution to prevent the continued practice of taking action on a horse's limb to produce an accentuated gait during competition. Furthermore, the scope of the bill is limited. It lays out a specific framework that focuses enforcement efforts on three horse breeds that continue to be the target of soring practices. Once Congress passes the PAST Act, we can finally end the practice of soring.”
“Though the Horse Protection Act was signed into law more than 50 years ago to protect horses from painful soring, this abuse continues unabated,” said Cathy Liss, President of the Animal Welfare Institute. “We urge Senate leadership to quickly pass the PAST Act to spare horses from needless suffering, provide vital enforcement, and increase penalties for repeat offenders.”
“The cruel practice of horse soring – inflicting pain and injury in horses’ legs and hooves to force them into an unnatural, high-stepping gait known as the “Big Lick” – has gone on for far too long while serial abusers have gamed the system and horses have suffered,” said Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “The PAST Act received overwhelming support last Congress, and we are grateful to Senators Warner and Crapo for reintroducing this critical bill to ensure the humane treatment of horses, so we can finally end this abuse once and for all.”
“We applaud Sens. Crapo and Warner for their tireless work to end the scourge of soring that’s marred the equine world for six decades,” said Marty Irby, Executive Director at Animal Wellness Action and past President of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors Association. “We remain committed to achieving the implementation of meaningful felony penalties and uniform inspections as well as the eradication of gruesome devices used to produce the unnatural exaggerated ‘big lick’ gait.”
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. The PAST Act would codify these changes into law. In April 2021, Senators Crapo and Warner led a bipartisan letter of 46 additional Senate colleagues to USDA Secretary Vilsack urging the USDA to publish and reinstate a final rule on the inhumane practice of soring.
Additional co-sponsors include Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire), John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Ben Ray Luján (D-New Mexico), Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), Alex Padilla (D-California), Gary Peters (D-Michigan), Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), Tina Smith (D-Minnesota), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Sheldon Whitehouse (R-Rhode Island) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).
Numerous groups have endorsed the bill, including the American Horse Council, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Wellness Action, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Humane Society Legislative Fund, and Virginia Veterinary Medical Association.
A copy of the bill text is available here.