Milestone for attempts to end the ‘plague’ of soring Tennessee’s horses

An amendment to US welfare law aimed at bringing the “cruelty” of soring to an end has passed a major milestone.

The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, which would amend the 1970 Horse Protection Act to prevent the abuse of Tennessee walking and other horses, has secured enough supporters for it to move on to a debate and “floor vote”, the next stage in the legislation process.

The PAST Act was introduced in the US House in January by senators Kurt Schrader and Ted Yoho, co-chairmen of the congressional veterinary medicine caucus. The aim is to close loopholes that have allowed soring to continue.

The practice refers to measures such as applying caustic chemicals to horses’ front legs, or inserting sharp objects into their hooves, with the aim of producing the exaggerated “big lick” gait for which the Tennessee walking horses is known.

The PAST Act was first introduced six years ago but floor votes on it were blocked by influential political figures, despite “overwhelming support” from both chambers of the US government.

The sponsors of the bill named this year’s version after the late senator Joseph D Tydings, who wrote the Horse Protection Act and “worked for 48 years to close loopholes that the horse soring crowd used to complicate enforcement of the law”.

“I’ve seen horses’ feet that have been sored so badly they looked like pizza with the cheese pulled off, and it’s long past time to end the rampant abusive practice of soring that I’ve personally witnessed since childhood,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, and past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association.

“We are going to get a vote and take a big step toward eradicating the soring plague that’s marred the breed for more than 60 years, and I applaud the US house members for their dedication and support.”

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Ben Tydings Smith, grandson of the late Mr Tydings, said his grandfather would be “thrilled” to see the act’s progress.

“He cared so deeply for these horses and I know he is probably looking down with a big smile on his face,” he said.

The PAST Act vote will take place no later than the week of 23 July, and supporters hope it will be a success, which would mean the Senate would have to take the matter up. If passed by the Senate, it would have to be approved by president Donald Trump before it becomes law.

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