AVMA gives testimony at hearing on soring

Published on December 04, 2013
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The AVMA made its voice heard on Capitol Hill Nov. 13 when Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO and executive vice president, testified before the House Sub-committee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade concerning the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (H.R. 1518).

Congress passed the Horse Protection Act in 1970 with the goal of ending soring, the act of deliberately causing pain to artificially exaggerate the leg motion of a show horse’s gait. However, Dr. DeHaven told subcommittee members that for many reasons—including insufficient funding and other resources for enforcement, unethical owners and trainers, show judges who reward bad behavior, and strong political influences—the industry has been embroiled in a culture of corruption with the result that, more than 40 years later, horses are still being sored at an alarming rate.

Prior to arriving at the AVMA, Dr. DeHaven served as the administrator of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and before that, one of his first roles was as a USDA veterinary medical officer charged with overseeing enforcement of the Horse Protection Act at walking-horse shows.

(Photo by Molly Riley)

At the hearing, he related USDA statistics that showed 78 percent of soring violations in 2012 were found when USDA inspectors were present at shows, but that these inspectors attended fewer than 10 percent of all shows.

The PAST Act, introduced by Congressman Ed Whitfield from Kentucky, takes further steps to end the practice. It makes the act of soring illegal, overhauls the USDA’s enforcement system, bans incentives to sore, and improves the penalty structure for violators.

The AVMA and American Association of Equine Practitioners support the bill’s passage and have condemned soring because of the damaging mental and physical effects it has on horses.

This legislation is also endorsed by more than 100 veterinary, horse industry, and animal protection groups, including every state VMA, as well as a number of equine professionals.

Dr. DeHaven said in his prepared testimony that soring has gone on far too long, and he has personally witnessed the long-lasting damage it has on horses. “Today, I hope I can persuade you, the members of the subcommittee, to swiftly mark up and favorably report the PAST Act, which will provide the resources necessary to protect the health and welfare of our nation’s walking horses.”

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