Warner, Crapo introduce legislation to prevent horse soring

mark warnerU.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced bipartisan legislation to protect horses from the abusive practice known as “soring” – in which show horse trainers intentionally apply substances or devices to a horse’s limb to make each step painful, forcing a horse to perform an exaggerated high-stepping gait that is rewarded in show rings.

While soring is prohibited under federal law, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General (IG) report has found that some horse trainers often go to great lengths to continue this inhumane practice.

“For more than 400 years, horses have been a part of Virginia’s culture. But despite a federal ban, horse soring—an act that deliberately inflicts pain on these animals—continues in some segments of the walking horse industry,” said Sen. Warner. “This bipartisan bill will finally put an end to this cruel and abusive practice.”

“We commend Senators Crapo and Warner for introducing the PAST Act to crack down on the terrible cruelty of horse soring. This legislation won’t cost taxpayers any additional money but it will fix gaping holes in the current federal law that have enabled this abuse to persist for almost half a century.  It’s time for Congress to enact these urgently-needed reforms – to get rid of the failed system of industry self-policing, eliminate the devices that are integral to the soring process, and establish meaningful penalties for perpetrators,” said Sara Amundson, President of Humane Society Legislative Fund.

“The American Horse Council – the voice of the nation’s equine sector which directly supports nearly one million U.S. jobs and contributes $122 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – applauds the leadership of Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Mark Warner (D-VA) for introducing the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act of 2018.   Although “soring” – which is the practice of inflicting pain on a horse’s limb to produce an accentuated gait – has declined since Congress enacted the Horse Protection Act in 1970, the PAST Act will build on this progress by modernizing inspection and revising penalties for violations,” said Julie M. Broadway, President of the American Horse Council.

 “We are very pleased that the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act is being introduced in the Senate, and would like to thank Senators Warner and Crapo for their leadership on this important horse welfare issue. The AVMA condemns the act of soring and feels that the current system of inspection and enforcement is not sufficient to stop this inhumane practice,” said Dr. Michael Topper, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“Soring is an intentional, cruel act which must end. As doctors of veterinary medicine, the AAEP will continue to support the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act and work to eliminate this inhumane practice on horses,” said Dr. Margo Macpherson, President of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act would:

  • Eliminate self-policing by requiring the USDA to assign a licensed inspector if the show’s management indicates its intent to hire one. Licensed or accredited veterinarians, if available, would be given preference for these positions.
  • Prohibit the use of action devices and pads on specific horse breeds that have historically been the primary victims of soring. Action devices, such as chains that rub up and down an already-sore leg, intensify the horse’s pain when it moves, so that the horse quickly jolts up its leg.
  • Increase the penalties on an individual caught soring a horse from a misdemeanor to a felony which is subject to up to three years’ incarceration, increase fines from $3,000 to $5,000 per violation, and permanently disqualify three-time violators from participating in horse shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions.

In 2017, the USDA Office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) incorporated some of the major tenets of the PAST Act in a rule meant to strengthen certain aspects of the Horse Protection Act. However, the rule was not finalized before the end of the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration halted that process. The PAST Act would codify these changes into law.

Numerous groups have endorsed the bill, including the Humane Society of the United States, the American Horse Council, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the American Association of Equine Practitioners. The PAST Act was introduced in previous years by Sen. Warner and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).