Sixty-five percent of all samples tested by federal officials at walking horse shows during the 2015 fiscal year tested positive for prohibited substances, including soring and numbing agents.
Figures released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that, of 768 tested samples, 500 were positive.
The 2015 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration returned even worse results, with 175 of the 200 tests – that’s 87.5% – coming back positive for foreign substances.
Of the 200 random samples, 165 were positive for counter-irritants, 140 for masking agents, and 37 for numbing agents.
The tests were conducted as part of enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, designed to protect walking horses against the illegal practice of soring, in which mechanical and chemical irritants are used to encourage the high gait favored by the Big Lick segment of the industry.
The president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, writing in his blog, A Humane Nation, asserted trainers and owners in the Big Lick segment of the Tennessee Walking horse show world were addicted to injuring horses and breaking federal and state laws against animal cruelty in order to win ribbons at major horse shows.
He said the results of testing from the 2015 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration were damning. It shattered claims from the Big Lick faction that it had cleaned up its act and that soring hardly ever occurred, he said.
The results, he said, begged the question as to how anyone could credibly believe the industry was capable of self-reform.
The USDA’s foreign-substance test results come months after the department released a report revealing its inspectors disqualified 181 out of 525 of the horses (over 34 percent) they inspected at the 2015 Celebration — a figure that he said was in line with the results at nine other shows that agency representatives attended last year.
“That’s not a few bad apples, but a rotten barrel.”
Pacelle said the findings strengthened the case for Congress to pass The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 3268/S. 1121, designed to toughen measures around soring, eliminate self-policing, provide stronger penalties for violators, and ban the use of chains, stacked shoes, and other devices used in soring walking horses and related breeds.
The bill enjoys strong bipartisan support but has yet to be brought to the floor of the House and Senate for a vote.
“We call on Congress to take note of these latest USDA findings and pass the PAST Act without further delay. These cruel lawbreakers should not be coddled or tolerated, and their legislative maneuverings should not be allowed to prevail. The rule of law matters, and it is time to put that principle into practice.”