Since the introduction of the Horse Protection Amendments Act (S. 1161) on April 30, there are now two competing anti-soring bills in the Senate. On closer review, however, only one of the bills strikes at the heart of the soring issue.
Soring is the egregious act of deliberately causing pain to exaggerate the leg motion of high-gaited horses, such as Tennessee Walking Horses. The chest-high stride achieved by soring is known in the industry as the “big lick.” Typically, chemical agents are applied to the horses’ pastern, and bracelet-like chains or rollers (action devices) are attached around this same area of the leg. The chains or rollers rub against the skin, exacerbating the pain caused by the caustic chemical agents, causing the high kick that is promoted by the walking horse industry.
In 1970, Congress passed the Horse Protection Act, which prohibited horses that are sored from participating in shows, sales, exhibitions or auctions, and banned drivers from transporting horses that have been subject to this abusive technique. Now, 45 years later, soring continues to be a problem.
At the 2014 National Celebration, the biggest walking horse competition, 20.4 percent of participants were found in violation of the Horse Protection Act, more than triple the 2013 rate of 6 percent. Nearly 170 horses were disqualified, while 651 of the 1,560 initial entries (or roughly 42 percent) were either “scratched” (decided not to participate) or disqualified.
In Congress, there are two bills that are aimed at stopping soring once and for all, but only the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S. 1121) will take the necessary steps to end this inhumane practice. This bill truly gets at the heart of the problem by placing the training, oversight, licensing and assigning of all show inspectors into the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as opposed to the current system of self-regulation. It will also eliminate the use of action devices and performance packages, and most importantly, make the actual act of soring illegal.
The Horse Protection Amendments Act, on the other hand, is simply a Trojan horse and would keep enforcement of the original Horse Protection Act in the hands of the walking horse show industry, essentially allowing the fox to guard the henhouse. S. 1161 will not eliminate the use of action devices and performance packages, which cause pain and damage to the horse’s hoof; exacerbate the pain of chemical irritants applied to the legs; facilitate concealment of other objects that produce pain; and cause the horse’s hoof to strike the ground at an abnormal angle and with excessive force. Most importantly, S. 1161 leaves the current prohibitions on the sale, auction and exhibition of sored horses in place, but does not make it illegal to sore a horse.
Last Congress we came very close to passing the PAST Act into law with 368 legislators in support of this important bill. Let’s not let the bill suffer the same fate in the 114th Congress.
YOU can make a difference for America’s walking horses by joining us in our efforts to SUPPORT the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act and OPPOSE the Horse Protection Amendments Act. Sign our action alert here and let’s put an end to the cruel practice of soring!