House Passes Bill to Stop Horse Soring

Soring uses pain and injury to induce an exaggerated high-stepping gait in competitive walking horses. ( USDA )

Existing laws and a self-policing system have not done enough to prevent the practice of soring, and last week the House of Representative, in a strongly bipartisan vote, passed a bill aiming to close the loopholes.  

The U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings Memorial Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 693) was introduced by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) both veterinarians and co-chairs of the Veterinary Medicine Caucus.

Soring, which most veterinarians, veterinary organizations and horse trainers consider inhumane, uses pain and injury to induce an exaggerated high-stepping gait in competitive walking horses. Methods include using caustic chemicals on horse’s lower leg, trimming their hooves, or applying devices such as heavy chains and weighted shoes to cause pain to the horse’s hooves.

“Horse soring still runs rampant even though laws have been on the books for decades banning this cruel practice,” says Rep. Schrader “We gave folks a chance to self-police, but the abusive behaviors continued. The bill that was passed today will strengthen and improve current regulations by improving USDA 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.”

“As a veterinarian and lover of animals, it is time we end the inhumane practice of horse soring,” says Rep. Yoho. “The walking horse industry had plenty of time to self-police and change their ways, but they decided to press on. They have failed to take advantage of this opportunity and now it is time for horse soring to end.”

According to the Animal Welfare Institute, The PAST Act Would:

End the failed industry self-policing system. The USDA would train, license, and assign inspectors to horse shows instead of having HIOs choose who conducts inspections. Shows would still have the option of hiring inspectors or declining to do so. Show management who opt out would (as in current law) risk greater liability if soring is uncovered at their show.

Strengthen penalties. Violators of the law could receive up to three years' jail time for core offenses now treated only as misdemeanors. Maximum fines would increase to $5,000 per violation. Periods of disqualification would lengthen with each violation. A third violation could result in permanent disqualification from any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction.

Ban the use of devices associated with soring. Chains, weighted shoes, pads, chains, and other devices used on three specified breeds (Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses, or Racking Horses) to intensify pain and conceal foreign objects would be expressly prohibited.

Make the actual soring of a horse for the purpose of showing or selling the animal illegal. Directing another to do so would also be illegal.

Not add costs to the federal government. The PAST Act would enable the USDA to redirect its enforcement efforts and resources in a more efficient and effective way.

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