Another “big lick” step in the wrong direction

By: Whitney Miller, assistant director, AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division

Subscribe to the AVMA AdvocateEfforts to end the cruel practice of soring took another step in the wrong direction Tuesday with the introduction of S. 2193, the Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2014. This legislation, similar to H.R. 4098 in the House of Representatives, is nothing more than a distraction tactic by an industry more interested in protecting an abusive culture than cleaning up its act.

Soring is the unethical practice of deliberately inflicting pain to exaggerate the leg motion of horses to gain an unfair advantage in the show ring. The chest-high stride achieved by soring is known in the industry as the “big lick.” The physical and mental damage done to horses is long-lasting and can result in horses spending the rest of their lives in chronic pain.

The AVMA continues to be staunchly opposed to legislation such as S. 2193 and H.R. 4098 that will not improve the welfare of horses or the government’s ability to enforce and guard against violators of the Horse Protection Act. Both bills will markedly worsen what is already a failed system of self-regulation by placing it solidly under the control of a single horse industry governing board. Self-policing by the Tennessee Walking Horse industry has failed time and time again because it assures strong political control over the decision process within the industry, rather than focusing on compliance.

AVMA believes the only way to truly end the cruel practice of soring is for Congress to swiftly take action and pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 1518/S. 1406). The PAST Act takes many important and necessary steps to end soring by: making the actual act of soring illegal; overhauling the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s enforcement system; banning incentives to sore; and improving the penalty structure against violators.

The PAST Act is supported by the AVMA, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, every state veterinary medical association in the United States, and numerous other groups and individuals, including many former walking horse industry leaders. This legislation also has overwhelming support in Congress, with more than 260 cosponsors in the House and 50 in the Senate.

The Horse Protection Act has tried to eliminate soring in this country for more than 40 years, yet the abusive practice continues to cripple horses and cause them unjust suffering. Our nation’s walking horses deserve better.

Please take a stand to protect horses. Contact your congressional representatives right now and tell them to support the PAST Act and oppose H.R. 4098/S. 2193. For more information, see AVMA’s website.

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