In an effort to end soring once and for all, the AVMA and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) submitted a petition (PDF) to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging USDA to consider regulatory changes to the Horse Protection Act (HPA). Specifically, the AVMA called on the USDA to make changes that would prohibit the use of performance packages and action devices (PDF) , abolish the horse show industry’s failed self-policing system, and create a new structure where federal officials are responsible for enforcement of the HPA.
Soring has been illegal since the passage of the Horse Protection Act 45 years ago, but it continues. And horses continue to suffer because of it.
The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, which began last week and ends this Saturday, serves as a visual reminder of the continued presence of soring in the “Big Lick” niche of the industry. Confused about what the “Big Lick” is? Watch a video of a naturally shod Tennessee Walker competing in the same ring with “Big Lick” horses, and compare their ease of movement and comfort (spoiler alert: the naturally shod horse didn’t win the class). To achieve this exaggerated gait, the industry uses chemical and physical means to cause pain; this is called soring.
The AVMA condemns the practice of soring, and has consistently supported enhancements to the Horse Protection Act to help eliminate this practice. But soring continues, as shown in a recent undercover investigation, and this makes it clear that current regulations do not go far enough to eliminate the abuse. In 2014, 20.4 percent of participants at the Celebration were found to be in violation of the Horse Protection Act, more than triple the 2013 rate of 6 percent.
In parallel, the AVMA and AAEP are actively pursuing passage of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 3268/S. 1121), which includes many of the same provisions outlined in the AVMA-AAEP petition. Despite overwhelming bipartisan support (more than 365 lawmakers), the PAST Act died at the end of the 113th Congress. The PAST Act was reintroduced in July 2015, and we hope you’ll help us get it passed this time.