Walking horse bill a “get-out-of-jail-free card” – advocate

Mike Markarian
Mike Markarian

A leading animal advocate in the United States has slammed a new bill which he claims is a get-out-of-jail-free card to those who perpetrate the cruel practice of horse soring.

Michael Markarian, who is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, argued that a bill introduced in the last week as an “alternative” to the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act failed to address the key issues around soring.

Markarian, who is also chief program and policy officer for the Humane Society of the United States, says momentum is growing in Congress to pass the PAST Act, which seeks to upgrade the 40-year-old federal Horse Protection Act to stop soring – the intentional injuring of horses with caustic chemicals and other painful devices in the walking horse show world to induce an exaggerated gait.

Markarian noted that it had more than 100 horse industry and veterinary organizations, and many others, supporting it. It had the bipartisan support of 266 House cosponsors and 48 Senate cosponsors.

“Not many bills in Congress ever amass so many cosponsors – a solid majority of the Congress,” he noted in a blog on the legislative fund’s website.

Markarian condemned the “alternative” bill introduced by Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn, of Tennessee.

“[It] can be described as nothing but a get-out-of-jail-free card to those who perpetrate the cruel practice of soring.

“Not only does HR 4098 contain none of the important reforms needed to crack down on soring, but it would set back these efforts by weakening the US Department of Agriculture’s already-limited authority and handing off power to the perpetrators.

“Unlike the PAST Act, Rep. Blackburn’s bill does nothing to strengthen the weak penalties that have failed to act as a deterrent to soring, and would continue to allow the use of chains, stacks, and other action devices that cause pain to horses’ legs and hooves — identified by the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Equine Practitioners as an integral part of the soring process.”

Markarian said it was poor self-regulation of the industry that has allowed the abuse to fester and thrive in the Big Lick show circuit, and Blackburn’s bill would eliminate the few Horse Industry Organizations (HIOs) now trying to end soring.

“Soring is never going to stop when the sorers are in charge of enforcement; that’s why the PAST Act gives the US Department of Agriculture the authority it needs to license, train, assign, and oversee independent inspectors.

“Blackburn’s bill completely fails to address the stacked shoes and chains, even though 93 percent of violations of the Horse Protection Act involve Big Lick horses who are subjected to these devices.

He said Blackburn’s bill “is another thinly disguised effort to codify the failed industry self-policing scheme that has allowed soring to continue unabated”.

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