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Anti-Soring Bill at Risk as Congressional Term Winds Down

Despite wide bipartisan support, the PAST Act has not been presented for a full vote in the House of Representatives

By Ken Niedziela, Veterinary Practice News | June 23, 2014

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Walk on Washington
Four-legged and two-legged supporters of the PAST Act cross in front of the U.S. Capitol. Photo Courtesy AVMA


Supporters of legislation that would stiffen penalties for soring sent a message to federal lawmakers last week: Giddyup.

Introduced in April 2013, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act has been sitting in a House subcommittee for the past year and will die if the current Congress fails to advance and approve the bill by January 2015. Soring is the deliberate infliction of pain to produce a high-stepping, exaggerated gait in certain gaited performance horses.

Representatives of the American Veterinary Medical Association joined horse owners and other backers June 18 for the Walk on Washington. Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses and Racking Horses paraded through Union Square in view of the U.S. Capitol in support of the proposed law, which counts 292 House members and 56 senators as co-sponsors.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners and dozens of other veterinary, horse industry and animal protection groups have called on Congress to pass the bill.

The PAST Act would amend the Horse Protection Act by:

  • Makes the actual act of soring, or directing another person to cause a horse to become sore, illegal, whereas the original act only banned showing, transporting, or auctioning a horse that was sore, not the actual practice.
  • Increasing civil and criminal penalties for violations.
  • Prohibiting the use of action devices such as boots, collars, chains and rollers that encircle or are placed upon a horse’s leg. Protective and therapeutic devices would be permitted.

The PAST Act was introduced by Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican, who attended the Walk on Washington.

"I don’t think there’s any question it’s a good bill; it’s a reasonable bill,” Whitfield said. "We’re frustrated right now because when you have that kind of support and that many organizations supporting you, normally you could get the bill to the floor. We will continue our efforts to make sure we can pass this legislation.”

AVMA has been lobbying Congress on behalf of the PAST Act. The group’s executive vice president and past president, Ron DeHaven, DVM, testified in November 2013 before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, where HR1518 is lodged.

"It is my hope that the members of the subcommittee will swiftly mark up and favorably report the PAST Act, which will provide the statutory changes necessary to protect the health and welfare of our nation’s walking horses,” he said at the time.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, was among the co-sponsors who spoke at the Walk on Washington.

"I am confident that if the leaders of the House allow us to vote on our PAST Act that it will pass overwhelmingly,” Cohen said. "I hope today’s Walk on Washington helps convince House leadership that the time is now to act to prevent this horrendous form of animal abuse. The infliction of pain on an animal or another human is wrong. … We ought to treat all God’s creatures well.”

Victoria Broehm, the communications manager with AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division, reported on the Walk on Washington in her AVMA@Work blog.

"If you haven’t done so already, visit AVMA’s Congressional Advocacy Network to email your congressional representatives today to ask them to pass this bill,” she wrote. "The bill has a lot of momentum, but unless your congressional representatives hear from you, the clock will wind down on this Congress without the bill becoming law.”

Liked this article? Here are more resources on soring and gaited-horse welfare.
Soring, Show Horses and the Future of the Tennessee Walking Horse
New Bill Aims to End Soring

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Anti-Soring Bill at Risk as Congressional Term Winds Down

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Reader Comments

Gayle    Glen Rock, PA

7/2/2014 12:17:56 PM

This bill will eliminate ALL pads and chains. Without the action devices, the other soring methods will be useless. The industry has been given 40+ years to clean up their act and they used that time to develop more and more insidious ways to cheat and fool the inspectors and the horses are the ones who have paid the price. It is one of the things that disgusts me most about our government that this bill could have SO much support yet still be stuck because of the money and power of a few legislators with special interests.

Grace C    Syracuse, NY

6/30/2014 1:31:43 PM

the most common compliant from the sore hose industry is that it will shut down their shows. The only ones that will shut down are those where Horse Protection Act violations are most prevalent. That is where the horses wear stacks, chains and ultra heavy shoes. Take away their soring tools and shows will still go on all over the country. Last week there was a big 4-day USEF Saddlebred show in Syracuse. 251 SADDLEBREDS and 151 MORGANS. That is a big show. Between the 2 breeds there were no more than 6-8 Park style horses there. The Saddlebred association has learned that their future is in the pleasure horse division and the youth. Morgans learned that many years ago. The TWH is in its death throes because of the leadership of it's breed organization has supported, defended and awarded sore horses and trainers for 50 years. The organization bragged about having 20,000 in the late 90s. Their membership now barely makes 6000 and is still dropping. Yet they STILL don't get it. The American people will not stand for animal abuse of any kind.

Gale    Highland, MD

6/30/2014 4:24:10 AM

I find it funny, sad but funny, that those who are against the PAST Act only argument is it will destroy the "industry". Well, there are many Tennessee Walking Horse shows throughout this beautiful country that do not allow pads and chains that are thriving. That tells me the "industry" is surviving outside the pads, chains and torture these individuals claim. I also find these folks who are against the PAST Act try to divert the focus to others such as the HSUS, Gee, in my opinion, if there was nothing going on, the HSUS would not have gotten undercover video of Jackie McConnell torturing a horse, Larry Wheelon's barn would not have been raided and 19 tortured horses would not have been seized (note: Mr. Wheelon is still awaiting trial and is innocent until proven guilty). I don't think it matters who may have initiated the PAST Act, it is long overdue. Clearly, the "industry" has not been able to clean up their act. The only time I ever saw a sored horse was when I was living in Tennessee at a small local show. It broke my heart and I was embarrassed to be living in a state that allowed such torture.

kygal    rural, KY

6/29/2014 5:47:04 PM

I have to agree with pat there are more pressing matters in this country than the attack on TWH what is this bill going to do that the association hasn't tried it will continue. What will be attacked next in animal agriculture barrel racing, steeple chasing, racing, 3 day eventing all the rodeo events?

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