A major American welfare group wants the use of numbing or masking chemicals on the legs of horses to be treated as a felony offence.
The Humane Society of the United States has filed a legal petition asking the US Department of Agriculture to treat the use of such chemicals on horses’ legs as a felony under the Horse Protection Act.
Soring is the act of using mechanical or painful caustic chemicals to sensitize the lower legs of horses to encourage them to develop the exaggerated gait that is so desirable in the walking horse industry.
Soring has been illegal for 40 years under the Horse Protection Act.
The petition comes after the deparment’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducted random testing at various Tennessee Walking Horse competitions using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis.
The results found significant numbers of cases where masking or numbing chemicals had been applied to horses’ pasterns.
The society’s senior vice-president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation, Jonathan Lovvorn, said horse-doping data released by USDA showed that animal abuse continued to be a huge problem in the walking horse industry.
“The use of prohibited substances to hide the intentional infliction of pain is a felony, plain and simple, and those responsible should be prosecuted immediately.”
Under the Horse Protection Act, any attempt to interfere with an official’s inspections to determine whether a horse has been sored constitutes a felony punishable by up to three years in prison, in addition to significant financial penalties.
The HSUS wants the department to issue a new rule or policy establishing that any use of banned substances to avoid detection of underlying soring will be treated as a felony, and to refer all such cases to the US Attorney’s Office for prosecution.