June 01, 2013


 Bill goes after horse law loopholes

Posted May 15, 2013

Newly proposed legislation is meant to address loopholes in the Horse Protection Act and to improve protections for horses by amending the law.

The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (H.R. 1518) was introduced in the House of Representatives on April 11 by Reps. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky and Steve Cohen of Tennessee. The bill, which had five co-sponsors as of mid-April, seeks to eliminate the abusive act of soring horses by improving the Department of Agriculture’s enforcement capabilities and strengthening penalties against violators, among other provisions. It was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Soring is the intentional infliction of pain in Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses, and Racking Horses to produce a high-stepping, unnatural gait. Despite soring being illegal for more than 40 years, insufficient funding and lack of resources needed for enforcement at the federal level have contributed to the continuation of this illegal practice by some at shows and auctions in certain pockets of the country, particularly Tennessee.

  • The AVMA and the American Association of Equine Practitioners have urged passage of H.R. 1518, which includes the following provisions, among others:
  • Makes illegal the actual act of soring, or directing another person to cause a horse to become sore, whereas the original Horse Protection Act banned only showing, transporting, or auctioning a horse that was sore, not the actual practice.
  • Prohibits the use of action devices (e.g., boots, collars, chains, rollers, or other devices that are put on the lower extremity of the leg of a horse) on any limb of gaited horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, or auctions, and bans weighted shoes, pads, wedges, hoof bands, or other devices that are not used for protective or therapeutic purposes.
  • Increases civil and criminal penalties for violations, and creates a penalty structure that requires horses to be disqualified for increasing amounts of time on the basis of the number of violations.
  • Allows for permanent disqualification from the show ring after three or more violations.
  • Requires the USDA—rather than the current structure of horse industry self-regulation—to license, train, assign, and oversee inspectors to enforce the HPA.

As the federal bill is debated, the Tennessee legislature passed a bill in mid-April requiring anyone who photographs or videotapes animal abuse to give a copy to police within 48 hours. Failure to do so is punishable by a $50 fine. The Humane Society of the United States had launched an ad campaign against the state measure, hoping to prevent Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam from signing the bill. The organization thinks it will stifle secret-camera investigations such as the one that led Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Jackie McConnell to plead guilty to violating the federal Horse Protection Act (see JAVMA, July 1, 2012, page 28).  

For more information on the AVMA and AAEP’s efforts to 
end soring, visit the AVMA’s Soring Resource Web page at  www.avma.org/soring