While the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act awaits a vote in the United States House of Representatives, members of Congress have approved an amendment to an appropriations bill that aims to enforce the Horse Protection Act.
Amendment 85, a bipartisan measure introduced by Michigan Democrat Haley Stevens, would reallocate $2 million from the Legal Activities account at the Department of Justice to the Environment and Natural Resources Division to enforce animal cruelty laws — including the Horse Protection Act. The amendment to H.R. 3055 — also known as Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2020 — passed 381-50. The bill has a 26% chance of being enacted into law, according to Skopos Labs.
The amendment as was co-sponsored by Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.; Joe Neguse, D-Colo.; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Ben McAdams, D-Utah; Peter King, R-N.Y.; Madeleine Dean, D-Pa.; Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.; and Cindy Axne, D-Iowa.
“Congress has made great strides to improve our animal welfare laws and rid this country of heartless cruelty toward animals, yet there are currently insufficient resources to ensure that these laws are adequately enforced,” Stevens says. “This amendment takes bold action to both defend the rights of animals and protects the safety of our communities.”
Animal rights activists such as Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action and past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association, applauded the amendment.
“Animal abusers should know we will continue to take action at every turn to end the horrific practices of soring Tennessee Walking Horses and animal fighting,” Irby says. “Fighting roosters or dogs and soring the feet of horses is illegal, and the Horse Protection Act, and animal fighting laws should be enforced.”
Soring is the intentional application of substances or devices to horses’ limbs to inflict pain in order to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping gait in show rings.
The reallocation of the money comes 43 years after Congress effectively defunded Tennessee Walking Horse show inspections. The result led to the self-policing of inspections by the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Both houses of Congress have since attempted four times to change the self-policing policy in the form of the PAST Act. None have advanced beyond committee. However, the latest version — H.R. 693 — has received the requisite 290 cosponsors to trigger a new House rule that ensures a debate and vote on the legislation.
Specifically, the PAST Act would substantially revamp the farriery of Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses and racking horses. They would prohibit the use of action devices, “weighted toe, pads, wedge, hoof band, or other device or material at a horse show, horse exhibition, or horse sale or auction that is placed on, inserted in, or attached to any limb of Tennessee Walking Horses, racking horses, Spotted Saddle Horses … to artificially alter the gait of such a horse; and is not strictly protective or therapeutic in nature.”
The legislation defines action device as “any boot, collar, chain, roller, or other devices that encircles or is placed upon the lower extremity of the leg of a horse in such a manner that it can rotate around the leg or slide up and down the leg, so as to cause friction; or strike the hoof, coronet band, fetlock joint, or pastern of the horse.” The legislation does not consider soft rubber or soft leather bell boots or quarter boots that are used to protect the foot as an action device.
Opponents of the bill believe that is too heavy-handed and would result in the demise of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.
“The Walking Horse industry obviously is disappointed by this action, which is an attempt not to end the unacceptable act of soring, but rather to eliminate the Walking show Horse industry that provides over 20,000 jobs and has an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion,” says Mike Inman, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. “The more logical approach is seen in the House bill introduced by Congressman Scott DesJarlais, which calls for scientific objective testing of all entries and strong penalties for those in violation, as opposed to punishing the super majority of horses and owners that are proven to be doing things in the right fashion.”
DesJarlais’ bill — H.R. 1157 – calls for science-based protocols, including swabbing or blood testing, that have been tested and capable of producing scientifically reliable and reproducible results, subjected to peer review and accepted in the veterinary or “other applicable scientific community.”