A new bill aimed at strengthening the existing ban on horse soring has the support of two major veterinary groups in the United States.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) said they supported the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (PAST), HR 1518.
The bill seeks to eliminate horse soring by improving the US Department of Agriculture’s enforcement capabilities and strengthening penalties against violators, among other provisions.
Soring is the intentional use of pain in Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses, and Racking Horses to produce a high-stepping, unnatural gait.
It involves the use of chemical and mechanical irritants on the lower legs to sensitise the tissues and encourage a higher gait.
Despite being illegal for more than 40 years, shortfalls in funding and other resources needed for enforcement at the federal level have contributed to a culture of corruption where the practice remains prevalent in shows and auctions in certain pockets of the US.
“Soring of horses is an inhumane practice that veterinarians are, unfortunately, still seeing. It has crippling physical and mental effects on horses,” said AVMA president Dr Douglas Aspros.
“It’s sad when winning a show takes precedence over the health and welfare of the horse.
“As veterinarians, we simply can’t stand by and allow horses to be abused. We encourage Congress to quickly pass HR 1518 and put an end to the inhumane and unethical practice of soring, once and for all.”
Specifically, the bill proposes to:
- Make the actual act of soring, or directing another person to cause a horse to become sore, illegal, whereas the original act only banned showing, transporting, or auctioning a horse that was sore, not the actual practice;
- Prohibit the use of action devices (eg, boot, collar, chain, roller, or other device that encircles or is placed upon the lower extremity of the leg of a horse) on any limb of Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses, or Racking Horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions and bans weighted shoes, pads, wedges, hoof bands, or other devices that are not used for protective or therapeutic purposes;
- Increases civil and criminal penalties for violations, and creates a penalty structure that requires horses to be disqualified for increasing periods of time based on the number of violations;
- Allows for permanent disqualification from the show ring after three or more violations; and
- Requires the US Department of Agriculture (rather than the current structure of horse industry self-regulation) to license, train, assign and oversee inspectors to enforce the Horse Protection Act.
AAEP President Dr Ann Dwyer said: “Soring is one of the most significant equine welfare issues in the United States.
“Federal legislation is the only action that will end this decades-long abuse of horses, and we urge all within the veterinary and horse-owning communities to join us in supporting this bill’s passage.”
Earlier report: New bill aims to toughen anti-soring laws