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USDA withdraws horse soring regulations supported by bipartisan members of Congress

Bureaucratic bungling has stalled a critical animal welfare rulemaking action aimed at cracking down on the barbaric practice of horse soring – with the U.S. Department of Agriculture withdrawing new regulations that had been broadly supported by hundreds of lawmakers in Congress, the veterinary community, a wide range of horse industry organizations, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund.  The rule had previously been announced as finalized by the USDA, but for it to be implemented, it must be published in the Federal Register. That didn’t happen in a timely way, and a decision by the Trump administration to freeze all pending rules captured the soring rule and put it in limbo.

The USDA had posted on its website the text of a final rule well in advance of Inauguration Day for the new president. But for some unexplained reason, the Federal Register delayed the publication of the rule. That language was not given the required one-day-early advance posting on the Federal Register until the day before Inauguration Day, and the Federal Register was closed on Inauguration Day.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, said: “Bureaucratic bungling scuttled a rule that policy makers and executive agencies agreed was the right thing. Now only the Trump administration can revive this long overdue rule, which enjoyed enormous bipartisan Congressional backing by 224 Senators and Representatives, and generated more than 100,000 public comments in support. Congress also can and should take action by passing the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act that had 323 cosponsors in the last session, but we urge the Trump administration to take an honest look at the issue and to publish the rule and adopt it.”

The USDA rule would strengthen regulations to end the cruel practice of soring – the intentional infliction of pain on the hooves and limbs of Tennessee walking horses and racking horses to induce the pain-based show gait known as the Big Lick. The rule would eliminate the failed system of industry self-policing that the USDA’s own Office of Inspector General deemed corrupt and ineffective in a 2010 audit, and prohibit the use of large stacked shoes, ankle chains, and other harmful devices that the American Horse Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association and many others have said are integral to the soring process.

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