The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act has been re-introduced to the the US Senate after the widely popular bill failed to get to the floor for a final vote before last November’s midterm congressional elections.
The Senate bill enjoyed the bipartisan support of 60 cosponsors before the midterms, which saw all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and 36 of the 100 seats in the Senate contested.
The parallel House bill – with 308 co-sponsors – also failed to reach the floor for a final vote. The bill is expected to be re-introduced to the House soon.
Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA) re-introduced the Senate bill last Monday.
It is intended to strengthen the Horse Protection Act and prevent the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses, and Spotted Saddle Horses.
The bill has the support of the American Horse Council and most national horse show organizations.
Soring is an abusive practice used by some horse trainers in the walking horse industry. It usually involves the use of action devices, chemicals, pads, wedges or other practices to cause pain in the horse’s forelegs and produce an accentuated show gait for competition.
Despite the existence of a federal ban on soring for over 40 years, it continues in some segments of the walking horse industry.
The PAST Act would amend the Horse Protection Act to ban a Tennessee Walking Horse, a Racking Horse, or a Spotted Saddle Horse from being shown, exhibited, or auctioned with an “action device”, or “a weighted shoe, pad, wedge, hoof band or other device or material” if it is constructed to artificially alter the gait of the horse and is not strictly protective or therapeutic.
These new prohibitions would not apply to other breeds that do not have a history of soring.
The legislation would also increase fines and penalties for violations, including the potential for a lifetime ban for repeat offenders.
The bill would create a new licensing process for horse show inspectors, eliminating the current designated qualified persons (DQPs) program. It would require the US Department of Agriculture to train, license and appoint new independent inspectors for shows and other activities regulated under the Horse Protection Act. Events would have to hire an inspector. Licensed or accredited veterinarians would be given preference for the positions.
The decision to hire and the cost of an inspector would rest with the management of a show, sale or auction.
Many national horse show organizations have endorsed the PAST Act, including the American Quarter Horse Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Paint Horse Association, the US Equestrian Federation, the American Morgan Horse Association, the Pinto Horse Association of America, the Arabian Horse Association, the American Saddlebred Horse Association, the United Professional Horsemen’s Association, and the Appaloosa Horse Club.
Many state and local horse organizations also support the bill, which retains broad bipartisan support.
The American Horse Council says various efforts have been made since the enactment of the Horse Protection Act to stop the soring of horses and they have not worked.
“This bill is focused on the problem it is intended to solve and does not adversely affect other segments of the show industry that are not soring horses and have no history of soring horses,” it said in a statement.
The council said it hoped Congress would take action on the bill in the near future.
The president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, said soring and other forms of mistreatment of Tennessee Walking Horses were still rampant.
Pacelle, writing in his blog, A Humane Nation, noted that the bill had solid bipartisan support from its original set of cosponsors.
“Congress tried to stop soring by enacting the federal Horse Protection Act in 1970. But the law is in desperate need of an upgrade, and rampant soring continues, as documented by the USDA Inspector General, who recommended anti-soring reforms that are now incorporated into the PAST Act.
“This eminently reasonable legislation will end the industry self-policing scheme that has been an abysmal failure, ban the use of devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and make other needed changes to crack down on the small subset (an estimated 10 percent) of the walking horse world that engages in soring.”
Pacelle said the act would not impose a burden on taxpayers – it would simply enable the US Department of Agriculture to redirect its enforcement efforts and resources in a more efficient and effective way.
Pacelle blamed the “Big Lick” faction for the PAST Act failing to reach a floor vote last year in both the House and the Senate.
“The bill was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in April 2014, but obstruction by a few well-positioned legislators catering to the wishes of those deeply involved in the Big Lick prevented the bill from coming to a vote in the Senate or House before the last Congress ended.
“That’s a travesty. The only ones opposing this non-controversial legislation are those who are already breaking federal law, committing horrible cruelty, cheating to win unfair advantage at horse shows, and profiting from it (and their handful of defenders in Congress).
“We need to raise our voices and call on our legislators to cosponsor the PAST Act and allow the full Congress to vote on this crucial bill.”