An omnibus spending bill consisting of all 12 fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills, coronavirus relief and authorizations was passed by Congress on Dec. 21 and is now awaiting the signature of President Donald Trump. Included in the $1.4 trillion fiscal year 2021 appropriations are funds to address a number of equine issues — including unsafe horseracing practices and “soring,” which is the intentional application of substances or devices to horses’ limbs to inflict pain in order to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping gait.
The package includes the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (S. 4547/H.R. 1754), which was approved in the fall by the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. It was introduced by Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. and Andy Barr, R-Ky.
The bill addresses the widespread doping of racehorses and unsafe track conditions that have been key contributing factors in frequent equine fatalities on American racetracks.
The package also doubles the fiscal year 2020 funding level for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce the Horse Protection Act . The bill allocates $2.09 million to enforce the 1970 law that prohibits sored horses from participating in shows, sales, exhibitions or auctions.
The reallocation of the money comes 44 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 to change the self-policing policy in the form of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. The omnibus package makes it clear that the authority of USDA inspectors supersedes that of industry inspectors and urges the agency to reinstate the HPA rule that was finalized but shelved in January 2017.