The Humane Society of the United States today honored Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., as its 2020 Humane Horseman of the Year. This annual award is given to an individual who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to protecting American equines. Rep. Tonko is specifically being recognized for his dedication to the passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act in December 2020, which marked a significant step in protecting hundreds of thousands of racehorses now and for the foreseeable future, and for his ongoing leadership and support on several other equine welfare initiatives.
Rep. Tonko is a longtime member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus and has consistently championed horse protection legislation including the Save America’s Forgotten Equines Act to prevent the slaughter of American horses and the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act to protect certain gaited horse breeds from the abusive training practice known as soring.
“During his time in Congress, Representative Tonko has been a tireless champion for equine protection, always going above and beyond,” stated Keith Dane, senior director of equine protection at the Humane Society of the United States. “We are so appreciative of his remarkable leadership to stop terrible cruelties to equines including the slaughter of horses for human consumption, soring of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds to win prizes, and doping of racehorses, which has caused so many tragic fatalities.”
“I am humbled to be named Humane Horseman of the Year by the Humane Society of the United States,” stated Rep. Tonko. “My work—really our work—to elevate the sport of horseracing with strong, enforceable standards of integrity and safety would not have been possible without all of the champions working to lift up the health of our equine athletes. I look forward to a long successful partnership as we continue paving a bright future for this noble sport.”
In the House of Representatives Rep. Tonko was the lead sponsor of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which was signed into law in December of 2020. This law will address widespread doping---a key contributing factor to frequent fatalities on American racetracks, as horses including injured ones are drugged up with painkillers and performance-enhancing substances and pushed beyond their limits. This animal protection measure will ban race-day medication, substantially increase out-of-competition testing and establish uniform national rules and oversight for the use of drugs in racehorses, replacing the hodgepodge of different rules in 38 U.S. racing jurisdictions. It creates a new independent nonprofit authority that will contract with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency as its anti-doping and medication control enforcement agency.
- Emily Snow Ehrhorn