The end of August brought not only an end to Congress’ summer recess, but renewed attention to the problem of soring and stronger calls for the practice to end. ”Soring” is the act of deliberately causing pain to exaggerate the leg motion of high-gaited horses, such as Tennessee Walking Horses.
Despite a short September legislative session, Congressmen Ed Whitfield (D- Ky.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced H.R. 6388, a bill that would amend the Horse Protection Act to include the prohibition of soring. The Horse Protection Act was passed in 1970, with the goal of ending soring. Unfortunately, insufficient funding and resources for enforcement, unethical owners and trainers, show judges that reward bad behavior and strong political influence by the industry have contributed to a culture of corruption so that, more than 40 years later, we are still seeing horses being sored.
H.R. 6388 would make several changes to existing law including:
- End the use of action devices and performance packages
- Eliminate the current self-policing system in the walking horse industry, and require USDA to assign licensed inspectors to shows upon request
- Make the actual act of soring a crime
- Increase civil and criminal penalties for violations
- Allow for permanent disqualification
The AVMA does not have a position on H.R. 6388 at this time, but it is under review. In 2012, the AVMA launched an extensive informational/educational campaign with the goal of bringing an end to soring. You can view our resources, statements and actions here. The AVMA also worked with Congressman Kurt Schrader (D- Ore.), currently the only veterinarian serving in Congress, to bring awareness to this issue with a floor speech from the House of Representatives on May 17, 2012. The speech can be viewed here.
For more information please contact Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director, AVMA Governmental Relations Division.