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Soring Opponents Get Another Chance to Enact Nationwide Ban

Posted: April 12, 2013, 3:45 p.m. EDT

Supporters of legislation that would prohibit the use of equine action devices and performance packages are trying again after an earlier attempt died in Congress last fall.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners today renewed their call for an end to soring, the intentional infliction of pain in Tennessee Walking Horses, spotted saddle horses and racking horses to produce a high-stepping, unnatural gait.

 Tennessee Walking Horse
A Tennessee walking horse displays its signature high-step gait.
Photo courtesy of USDA
The earlier bill, HR 6388, was introduced in September but died in committee. The latest effort, HR 1518, or the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, was introduced Thursday as an amendment to the Horse Protection Act.

HR 1518, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., would:

• Make illegal the act of soring or directing another person to cause a horse to become sore. The Horse Protection Act merely bans showing, transporting or auctioning a horse that is sore, not the actual practice.

• Prohibit 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.

• Increase the civil and criminal penalties for violations.

• Give the U.S. Department of Agriculture more control over the licensing, training and assigning of inspectors.

"Soring of horses is an inhumane practice that veterinarians are, unfortunately, still seeing,” said AVMA president Douglas Aspros, DVM. "It’s sad when winning a show takes precedence over the health and welfare of the horse. As veterinarians, we simply can’t stand by and allow horses to be abused.”

AAEP president Ann Dwyer, DVM, called soring "one of the most significant equine welfare issues in the United States.”

"Federal legislation is the only action that will end this decades-long abuse of horses, and we urge all within the veterinary and horse-owning communities to join us in supporting this bill’s passage,” Dr. Dwyer said.

Passage of HR 1518 is uncertain. The website www.govtrack.us gave the bill a 10 percent chance of advancing past the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a 1 percent chance of being enacted.

Horse Industry Organizations, the entities that put on horse shows, are responsible for enforcing penalties under the Horse Protection Act. Though officials from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service attend several events a year, the agency is not represented at every show, a spokesman reported.

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