The Performance Show Horse Association (PSHA) has voiced its opposition to legislation currently before the US House and Senate aimed at toughening federal measures against soring.
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.
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act is being offered by US Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA). The House version – in amendment form – was introduced earlier this year by Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY).
“PSHA strongly opposes the PAST Act because it would destroy an entire equine division, costs tens of thousands of jobs, eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and millions in charitable giving, devastating communities and people’s lives throughout the country,” said chairman Terry Dotson.
The association argues the act would eliminate a total division of the equine breed, impacting more than 10,000 horses that would be deemed no longer fit for their intended purpose.
It argues the act would take from industry participants “hundreds of millions of dollars of investments and income without cause or any scientific evidence”.
The act, it said, would eliminate self-regulation under the Horse Protection Act’s self-regulation, which it claimed was far superior to that of the federal government, “and which does not need the hundreds of new federal employees required by Whitfield’s amendment”.
The association claims the PAST Act would created “a new federal bureaucracy” that would cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
The assocication held its first meeting in March this year. It says on its website it was created “to consolidate industry enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) in a fair and consistent manner to protect the wellbeing of performance horses, while maintaining the integrity of their sport”.
The association’s views are at odds with horse advocacy groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, which have spoken in support of the bill.
The bill also has the support of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).
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;
- Increase 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;
- Allow for permanent disqualification from the show ring after three or more violations; and
- Require 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 in April: “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.”