Washington, D.C. — Deliberately inflicting pain to exaggerate the leg motion of gaited horses through the practice of “soring” is unethical and inhumane and must be stopped, an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) official told a U.S. House subcommittee today on Capitol Hill.
AVMA's Dr. Ron DeHaven urges Congress to support H.R. 1518 to end the abusive practice of soring horses. / Photo credits: Molly Riley/AVMA
In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, AVMA’s Chief Executive and Executive Vice President Dr. Ron DeHaven urged Congress to pass H.R. 1518, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, which will provide the regulatory oversight necessary to protect the health and well-being of our nation’s walking horses.
“As the former administrator to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service charged with overseeing enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, I have witnessed the long-lasting and damaging effects that soring has on horses and feel that this bill is necessary to stop a culture of abuse that has existed for more than 40 years in the walking horse industry,” DeHaven testified. “It is my hope that the members of the subcommittee will swiftly markup and favorably report the PAST Act, which will provide the statutory changes necessary to protect the health and welfare of our nation’s walking horses.”
Despite being illegal in shows, sales or exhibits for more than 40 years under the Horse Protection Act (HPA), the actual act of soring itself has yet to be outlawed, and the veterinary profession continues to see the irreversible mental and physical effects that soring has on Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses, and Racking Horses.
The PAST Act would amend the HPA to take many important and necessary steps to end soring, such as: making the actual act of soring illegal; overhauling the USDA’s enforcement system to remove the inherent conflicts of interest with the horse industry self-regulation; banning incentives to sore; and improving the penalty structure against violators, among other provisions.
The Horse Protection Program, which sends USDA officials to shows to oversee horse inspections for signs of soring, has faced budget constraints over the past few years, DeHaven pointed out in his testimony. Although the program has done an excellent job with the limited resources available, if Congress is serious about protecting the health and welfare of horses, it “must take a strong stand against the abusive practice of soring and commit the necessary funding for the USDA to adequately enforce the HPA,” DeHaven said.
Congressman Ed Whitfield explains why he believes the PAST Act is necessary to guard walking horses against soring. / Photo credits: Molly Riley/AVMA
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) introduced the PAST Act on April 11 and already the bill has wide bipartisan, bicameral support with more than 200 cosponsors in the House, and its companion legislation in the Senate (S. 1406) has 26 cosponsors.
“Far too often, those involved in showing the Tennessee Walking Horses have turned a blind eye to abusive trainers, or when they do take action, the penalties are so minor, it does nothing to prevent these barbaric acts,” stated Whitfield. “The PAST Act does not cost the federal government any additional money and is essential in helping to put an end to the practice of soring by abusive trainers.”
Besides the AVMA, the legislation is endorsed by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), and more than 100 veterinary, horse industry, and animal protection groups.
“Soring is one of the most significant equine welfare issues in the United States,” said AAEP President Dr. Ann Dwyer. “This legislation is the only action that will end this decades-long abuse of horses, and we urge all within Congress to support this bill’s passage.”
Read DeHaven’s full testimony on AVMA’s website or visit the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s website to view the webcast. For more information about soring, visit www.avma.org/soring, or for specifics on the legislation, see AVMA’s issue brief.