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April 2, 2014

New Legislation Would Protect Horse Abusers, Not Horses

Federal legislation introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, with Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, Rand Paul, R–KY, and Johnny Isakson, R-GA, as original cosponsors, would weaken protections for horses under the federal Horse Protection Act by placing enforcement authority in the hands of individuals with ties to the Tennessee walking horse industry. This would codify – and actually make worse – a scheme of self-regulation that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General called a failure and recommended be abolished. The bill, S. 2193, is intended as a companion to H.R. 4098, which was introduced in February by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, and has been widely condemned by the horse industry, veterinary community and animal welfare groups.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said: “This new bill will do nothing to end soring of Tennessee walking horses. It amounts to a prescription for continued abuse of horses by the ‘Big Lick’ faction of trainers who seek to gain an advantage in competitive shows by intentionally injuring the animals. It puts a criminal faction of the industry in control of oversight.”

Keith Dane, vice president of Equine Protection at The HSUS and an owner of Tennessee Walking horses and a horse show judge, added: “Lawmakers sincerely interested in combatting the criminal practice of soring should get behind the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, H.R. 1518 and S. 1406 – which collectively have more than 300 cosponsors.  We call on House and Senate leadership to swiftly move the PAST Act to the floor for a vote, and end the unconscionable suffering of these horses.”

The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 1518/S. 1406, would eliminate the failed system of industry self-policing, prohibit the use of “stacks” and chains (devices used to inflict pain on horses’ front limbs and produce the “Big Lick” gait) on horses in the Tennessee walking, racking and spotted saddle horse breeds, and increase penalties to finally provide an effective deterrent. The PAST Act is endorsed by the American Horse Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association, all 50 state veterinary medical associations, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and dozens of leading horse industry organizations (see full list). It is cosponsored by a majority of both the House and Senate – 269 Representatives and 51 Senators.

Media Contacts: Stephanie Twining, 301-258-1491, stwining@humanesociety.org

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