U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, and Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, joined U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on Tuesday to introduce legislation that they said would "preserve the century-old tradition of the Tennessee walking horse while ending the contemptible practice of the illegal soring of horses."
The bill drew criticism from Kentucky U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, who has introduced competing legislation that has widespread congressional support.
In a statement released earlier in the day, Whitfield said that "any legislation that does not ban stacks and chains; does not eliminate the failed self-policing inspection system; does not increase criminal penalties to provide a truly effective deterrent; and does not strengthen the USDA's ability to enforce the Horse Protection Act, will not work."
The legislation touted by McConnell and Paul is a companion to a bill introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and designed to counter bills filed by Whitfield and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., that already have the support of 268 members of the House, including U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, and at least 50 members of the Senate.
Whitfield's bill would ban heavy front shoe pads and chains often associated with the illegal practices of "soring," which involves intentionally inflicting pain on a horse's front feet to encourage an exaggerated performance gait known as the "Big Lick."