Last week, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (PAST), a bill (333 to 96) that aims to stamp out soring in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry by ending self-policing and strengthening penalties. Backers of the anti-soring bill will now press for the legislation to be brought before the Senate for a vote.
“Soring” involves using mechanical or chemical means to inflict pain that causes the “big lick” high stepping gait rewarded in the show ring. The Horse Protection Act, passed in 1970 barred the practice but depended on self-policing, a system that hasn’t worked.
The PAST Act would use third-party independent inspectors trained, licensed, and assigned by USDA and accountable to the agency. It would ban devices integral to soring and strengthen penalties.
The PAST Act would amend the HPA to:
make soring a horse illegal (right now, it is only illegal to transport, show or auction a horse that has been sored)
- increase civil and criminal penalties for individuals caught soring
- prohibit the use of “action devices,” such as chains that rub up and down already sore forelegs
- allow for the permanent disqualification for three-time offenders
- end self-policing by the walking horse industry by putting inspections in the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, rather than industry.
The bill, which seeks to amend the Horse Protection Act, would also ban devices integral to soring, strengthen penalties and hold abusers accountable.
“The fact is that the big lick can only be accomplished by soring. When one soring technique becomes detectable, another is developed. The big lick is a learned response to pain, and if horses have not been sored, they do not learn it.” Dr. John Haffner, a veterinarian.
The PAST Act has wide backing in the horse industry, as well as veterinary, law enforcement and animal protection communities, including the American Horse Council, the US Equestrian Federation, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, the state veterinary organizations of all 50 states, key individuals in the Tennessee walking horse show world, National Sheriffs’ Association, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and major newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee (the states where soring is most prevalent).
What does the “Big Lick” gait look like? Here’s the 2013 Walking Horse Champion.
Let’s hope the Senate passes this bill and finally help these horses.