American horses have won a “historic victory” as a legislation amendment aimed to stop the “inhumane” practice of soring has passed the House of Representatives.
Members voted 333 to 96 yesterday (25 July) in favour of the US Senator Joseph D Tydings memorial Prevent All Spring Tactics (PAST) Act.
The bill is named after the late Maryland senator who saw the 1970 Horse Protection Act, which the PAST Act would amend, through Congress.
It would end the practice of injuring the hooves and legs of Tennessee walking and other horses to produce the high-stepping “big lick” gait, and, according to the Animal Welfare Institute, is the “most significant protections for Tennessee walking horses and related breeds since passage of the Horse Protection Act”.
Soring methods include applying diesel fuel and kerosene to burn the skin, grinding down hooves to expose sensitive tissues, and applying “sharp or abrasive objects to tender areas to maximise pain”. Under the current system of industry self-policing, those who abuse horses often go unpunished.
“This is a historic moment for horses that have been subjected to this brutal practice in the name of competition,” said Animal Welfare Institute president Cathy Liss.
“Soring will persist as long as trainers, owners and others involved in walking horse shows are not held accountable for their actions and even rewarded by winning prizes.”
The bill must now be passed by the Senate, and approved by president Donald Trump, before it becomes law, but Ms Liss said few bills had garnered such broad, cross-political support.
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“Fortunately, lawmakers recognise the severity of the problem and the need to protect Tennessee walking horses from abuse,” she said. “We urge Senate leadership to quickly pass the PAST Act to provide much-needed enforcement and harsher penalties for repeat offenders.”
Oregon representative Kurt Schrader, one of those who introduced the Act in January, said soring “runs rampant”.
“We gave folks a chance to self-police, but the abusive behaviors continued,” he said.
“The bill that was passed today will strengthen and improve current regulations by improving USDA [US Department of Agriculture] enforcement, increasing civil and criminal penalties, and banning incentives to sore horses. This is a historic day and I am grateful for my colleagues who worked tirelessly to get this legislation across the finish line and for the beautiful horses that we love so much.”
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