April 19, 2008

Leading animal welfare organizations joined with Tennessee Walking Horse industry groups to announce the formation of the Alliance to End Soring, at the first annual Sound Horse Conference in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend.

"This deliberate infliction of pain upon these noble, stoic horses is animal cruelty - no less so than dogfighting or cockfighting. Soring must be brought to an end," said Keith Dane, director of equine protection at The Humane Society of the United States. "This alliance will inform the public, the media and members of Congress of this inhumane practice and put violators on notice that the American people will no longer tolerate this criminal abuse of horses."

Soring involves the intentional infliction of pain to a horse's feet, using caustic chemicals and metal chains, which produce an exaggerated, high stepping gait. Tennessee Walking Horses and other gaited breeds, prized for their distinctive gait and willing natures, have long been victims of this cruel training method.

Soring is so cruel that in 1970, the US Congress passed the Horse Protection Act, giving the USDA authority to inspect horses in transport to and at horse shows, sales and exhibitions for signs of soring, and prosecute individuals found in violation of the Act. However, enforcement of state and federal anti-soring laws has proven difficult, allowing the practice to persist on a widespread basis.

The Alliance to End Soring will work with the USDA, Congress and Tennessee Walking Horse industry stakeholders to advocate for increased enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and raise public awareness of the pervasive use of soring in the industry.

Founding Alliance members include: The Humane Society of the United States, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute, the American Horse Defense Fund, Friends of Sound Horses and the Horse Protection Commission.

At the Sound Horse Conference, veterinarians and other scientific experts discussed modern detection technologies that have the potential to end soring, including thermography, digital radiography, and pain detection and measurement devices.

Other panelists discussed ways in which horse industry organizations in other breeds have worked to eliminate abusive training practices and the reasons why, decades after the Horse Protection Act went into effect, soring is still prevalent.