The Humane Society of the United States won’t relent in its campaign to rid the walking horse industry of the rampant practice of horse soring, its president and chief executive says.
Wayne Pacelle, writing in his blog, A Humane Nation, was commenting on recent court action taken by owners of walking horses against animal advocates.
Horse soring is the illegal practice of using chemical or mechanical irritants to encourage the high-stepping gait known as the Big Lick.
Soring has been outlawed for nearly 50 years, but animal advocates say it is still used by unscrupulous owners and trainers in a section of the walking horse industry.
“It is,” says Pacelle, “an appalling act, done for entertainment and profit, and I put it in the same category as dogfighting and cockfighting.
“The horse soring crowd not only has professional lobbyists but also some key lawmakers doing their bidding in Congress – almost exclusively from the states of Kentucky and Tennessee.
“But they also play their tricks in the courts, and we’ve seen them engage in some pretty brazen actions as of late.”
Pacelle cited two separate legal proceedings in which walking-horse owners filed lawsuits against individuals and organizations involved in the seizure of their horses. They attempted to claim loss of value of the horses following the seizures, which arose over soring allegations.
The HSUS was not a defendant in one case, but helped with legal fees and research for the defense of the suit, in which the horse owners ultimately asked that a judge dismiss their case “once they realized they weren’t getting anywhere,” Pacelle said.
In the other court action, the HSUS was among the defendants, but a judge dismissed the case.
Pacelle said the outcomes vindicated the efforts of agencies to seek justice for such horses.
He said Congress needed to step up and pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 1847, which US Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., both veterinarians, reintroduced this northern spring and which currently has the bipartisan support of 252 House cosponsors.
The bill would strengthen the 1970 Horse Protection Act and effectively end the training and exhibition of Big Lick walking horses by banning the use of large stacked shoes, ankle chains, and other devices integral to the soring process.
The bill would also abolish industry self-policing and increase penalties for soring.
Pacelle said the bill enjoyed vast support from industry, veterinary and law enforcement agencies, as well as solid bipartisan support.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture has frozen a final rule that would achieve many of the same urgently needed reforms.
“Veterinarian and US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue can publish this final rule at any time, and there’s no reason for him to delay any further.
“In February, Reps. Yoho and Schrader sent a letter signed by 154 Representatives to President Trump, urging him to get the rule published and to support the PAST Act.”
Pacelle said members of the public needed to let their representative know that they want Congress to pass the bill.