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February 24, 2014

Federal Appeals Court Asked to Uphold Regulations Protecting Tennessee Walking Horses

Regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prevent the cruel practice of horse “soring” are being challenged in federal appeals court, prompting the Humane Society of the United States to file a friend-of-the-court brief.  The HSUS is asking the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to uphold the regulations, which require uniform mandatory minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act. The district court in Texas previously ruled against the plaintiffsand upheld the regulations.

The Horse Protection Act prohibits the showing and transporting of horses who have been “sored,” which involves the application of caustic chemicals and other painful training methods used to force horses to perform an artificially high-stepping gait for show competitions. Horse industry organizations are the industry’s self-policing groups that operate alongside the USDA to conduct inspections at Tennessee walking horse competitions.

The USDA finalized the uniform penalties regulations in 2012 and were met with a lawsuit from a horse industry organization, SHOW, Inc., and two participants in horse shows. The appellants in the current appeal include the individual horse show participants but not SHOW. Their arguments have already been rejected by the district court, and The HSUS’ brief makes clear that they have no legal foundation.

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