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On Capitol Hill, AVMA’s Chief Lobbies For Anti-soring Law


AVMA’s Dr. Ron DeHaven testifies in support of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act.

Molly Riley/AVMA

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s top leader told a congressional panel today that soring—the deliberate infliction of pain to produce a high-stepping, unnatural gait in performance horses—is unethical and inhumane.

Ron DeHaven, DVM, the organization’s CEO and executive vice president, urged members of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade to push for passage of HR 1518, or the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act.

The proposed law would amend the Horse Protection Act by strengthening penalties for soring and improving enforcement against the practice. Among the bill’s 223 co-sponsors in the House are two veterinarians: U.S. Reps. Ted Yoho of Florida and Kurt Schrader of Oregon.

"As the former administrator to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service charged with overseeing enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, I have witnessed the long-lasting and damaging effects that soring has on horses and feel that this bill is necessary to stop a culture of abuse that has existed for more than 40 years in the walking horse industry,” Dr. DeHaven testified.

"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.”

The American Association of Equine Practitioners and more than 100 other veterinary, horse industry and animal protection groups support the bill.

"Soring is one of the most significant equine welfare issues in the United States,” said AAEP President Ann Dwyer, DVM. "This legislation is the only action that will end this decades-long abuse of horses, and we urge all within Congress to support this bill’s passage.”

The use of soring in equine shows, sales and exhibits has been illegal for more than 40 years, but the act itself is not outlawed, AVMA reported. The practice can have a debilitating effect on horses, both physically and mentally, the organization added.

Soring is most often practiced on Tennessee Walking Horses, spotted saddle horses and racking horses.

The PAST Act would amend the Horse Protection Act by:

• Making the actual act of soring illegal.
• 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.
• Overhauling the federal enforcement system to remove what AVMA called "inherent conflicts of interest with the horse industry.”

An earlier attempt to regulate soring died last year in Congress. Legislation was reintroduced in April by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky.

"Far too often, those involved in showing the Tennessee Walking Horses have turned a blind eye to abusive trainers, or when they do take action, the penalties are so minor, it does nothing to prevent these barbaric acts,” Whitfield said. "The PAST Act does not cost the federal government any additional money and is essential in helping to put an end to the practice of soring by abusive trainers.”

Another bill slowly winding its way through Congress is the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (HR 1528), which would allow veterinarians to transport and dispense controlled substances away from their registered offices. The legislation would fix what its co-sponsor, Schrader, called a "confusing interpretation of existing law” that technically criminalizes the everyday actions of mobile and ambulatory practitioners.


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