WASHINGTON—The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund commend the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives for holding a hearing on the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act, H.R. 3355, and Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 5441, on Thursday, May 26. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, who is the lead sponsor of the SAFE Act and is the co-lead of the PAST Act, which is led by Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee. Chairwoman Schakowsky was HSUS’ 2019 Humane Horsewoman of the Year—an honor bestowed for her longstanding commitment to protecting America’s horses from cruelty. Rep. Cohen is also a longtime champion of equine protection.
The PAST Act addresses the abuse of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds who are forced to perform a high-stepping gait known as the “Big Lick” by bad actors who subject the horses’ legs to caustic chemicals, chains and other intensely painful techniques in a practice known as “soring.” Though Congress aimed to end soring in 1970 with enactment of the Horse Protection Act, weak enforcement, loopholes and pressure from scofflaws in the walking horse industry have allowed the practice to continue.
The PAST Act would amend the Horse Protection Act to eliminate industry self-policing, ban soring devices and strengthen penalties.
While horses no longer face slaughter domestically, tens of thousands of U.S. horses are still sold at auction each year, then slaughtered abroad for food. The American public overwhelmingly rejects the idea of slaughtering horses to eat them.
The SAFE Act would impose a permanent ban on domestic horse slaughter and the end of exporting horses to foreign slaughterhouses.
“The impact of advancing two bills to protect American horses at one time cannot be overstated. The Save America’s Forgotten Equines Act will spare horses from the cruel slaughter pipeline and give them a second chance,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “Soring is intentional abuse and violates the most fundamental elements of humane treatment. The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act will end this painful training technique and spare these horses from lives of misery.”
“American horses don’t belong on foreign dinner plates or painfully sored for a blue ribbon in a show ring. These practices leave most Americans shaking their heads. Two bills with more than 200 cosponsors each, and overwhelming bipartisan support, should be on the fast track to passage in this Congress,” said Sara Amundson, president of Humane Society Legislative Fund.
The SAFE and PAST Acts are cosponsored by 257 and 216 House members, respectively. They also both have vast public support and endorsements by major animal protection, horse industry and veterinary organizations.
The HSUS and HSLF are urging House leadership to move these bills swiftly to a markup by the full committee and to the floor for a vote—and for the Senate to also take up these measures to ensure their passage in the 117th Congress.
- Erica Heffner