(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois)—The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is pleased to see that the USDA has proposed changes to strengthen enforcement of the Horse Protection Act in an effort to put an end to the inhumane practice of soring.
Soring involves deliberately causing pain to artificially exaggerate the leg motion of a horse’s gait. The practice is commonly used on "big lick" Tennessee Walking Horses, but other gaited horses may also suffer from this practice.
In addition to being unethical, soring has been illegal since the Horse Protection Act went into effect in 1970. However, soring continues to occur for a variety of reasons, including detection avoidance by trainers and owners, judges rewarding sored horses in the show ring, and budget constraints at the USDA that limit the department’s presence and the frequency of inspections. Attempts at a legislative solution to this problem have achieved wide bipartisan support but have been thwarted before reaching the floor for a vote.
The USDA now hopes to address the issue of soring through proposed amendments to the Horse Protection Act, which would make two significant changes:
- USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) would assume responsibility for training, screening and licensing horse inspectors. Instead of allowing horse industry organizations to handle these responsibilities, which can be ineffective due to conflicts of interest, inspectors would be veterinarians and veterinary technicians required to follow USDA rules and standards of conduct.
- USDA-APHIS would ban the use of all action devices, pads, and foreign substances at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions. This would align the HPA regulations with existing equestrian standards set forth by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.
The proposed rule is available for public comment at http://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=APHIS-2011-0009. Comments can be submitted through September 26.
In addition, APHIS will be hosting a series of meetings where the public can provide additional comments and feedback. Future meetings are scheduled for:
- Tuesday, Sept. 6, in Riverdale, Md.
- Wednesday, Sept. 15, a call-in virtual public meeting.
To register or learn more about the public meetings, visit https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalwelfare/horse-protection-amendments.
The AVMA has condemned the practice of soring for over 40 years. AVMA currently endorses the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) policy on "The Practice of Soring." In addition, the AVMA has policy on the abolition of action devices and performance packages.
To learn more about soring, visit the AVMA’s resources on the subject at avma.org/soring.
For more information, or to schedule an interview, contact Michael San Filippo, AVMA senior media relations specialist, at 847-285-6687 (office), 847-732-6194 (cell), or firstname.lastname@example.org.