A pair of United States senators are resuming their quest to prevent the practice of soring horses.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, and Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, reintroduced the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act on Tuesday. The legislation aims to strengthen the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and prevent the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses and Spotted Saddle Horses.
Soring usually involves the use of action devices, chemicals, pads, wedges or other practices to cause pain in the horse’s forelegs and produce an accentuated show gait for competition.
If passed into law, PAST Act would amend the HPA to prohibit a Tennessee Walking Horse, a Racking Horse or a Spotted Saddle Horse from being shown, exhibited or auctioned with an “action device,” or “a weighted shoe, pad, wedge, hoof band or other device or material” if it is constructed to artificially alter the gait of the horse and is not strictly protective or therapeutic. The proposed legislation would not apply to other breeds that do not have a history of soring.
The proposed legislation also aims to:
• Eliminate self-policing by requiring the USDA to assign a licensed inspector if the show’s management indicates its intent to hire one. Licensed or accredited veterinarians, if available, would be given preference for these positions.
• Increase the penalties on an individual caught soring a horse from a misdemeanor to a felony subject to as much as 3 years’ incarceration, increases fines from $3,000 to $5,000 per violation. A third violation allows permanent disqualification from participating in horse shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions.
Ayotte and Warner, who originally introduced the PAST Act in July 2013, are joined by nine co-sponsors — Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and David Vitter (R-La.).
“Soring is inhumane and this bipartisan legislation takes an important step toward stopping this abusive training tactic that intentionally inflicts pain on horses,” Ayotte says. “I will continue to work across the aisle to protect horses from this cruel practice.”
In 2010, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector general conducted an audit of the federal Horse Protection Program, which found that show horse trainers often go to great lengths to evade federal law prohibiting soring and requiring them to train horses using humane methods. The USDA inspector general made several recommendations, including establishing stiffer penalties and abolishing the self-policing practices currently allowed under existing regulations, in which Horse Industry Organizations are able to assign their own inspectors to monitor horse shows.
“Whether riding, racing, hunting or training, horses have been a part of Virginia’s culture for 400 years,” Warner says. “However, owners and breeders from across the Commonwealth agree that the deliberate act of inflicting pain on horses has no place in modern equestrian competition. Sen. Ayotte and I are proud to reintroduce the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act to give USDA the tools it needs to crack down on horse soring and end this cruel practice once and for all.”
Many national horse show organizations endorse the PAST Act including the American Horse Council (AHC).
“Various efforts have been made since enactment of the HPA 40 years ago to stop the soring of horses and they have not worked,” according to a statement from the organization. “This bill is focused on the problem it is intended to solve and does not adversely affect other segments of the show industry that are not soring horses and have no history of soring horses. The AHC supports the bill and hopes Congress will take action on the bill in the near future.”