AVMA Warns Days Numbered for Soring Bill

A widely supported measure designed to stop the use of pain-producing tactics with performance horses may expire with the current Congress.

Dr. Ron DeHaven addresses the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade in 2013 to push for passage of the PAST Act.

MOLLY RILEY/AVMA

The American Veterinary Medical Association is urgently asking veterinarians, veterinary students and horse lovers to contact their congressmen in support of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, a piece of legislation that will die if the 113th Congress doesn’t act by Dec. 12.

The PAST Act has been stuck in a House subcommittee because of the reluctance of some legislators to bring the measure to the floor for a vote. The 113th Congress will end its term Dec. 12, spelling the end for all proposed laws not acted upon and forcing PAST supporters to start from scratch with the new Congress.

The soring bill, sponsored by Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield, has 307 co-sponsors in the House.

The PAST Act would crack down on the deliberate infliction of pain in performance horses to produce a high-stepping, unnatural gait. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Make the actual act of soring illegal.
  • Increase civil and criminal penalties for violations.
  • 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.
  • Overhaul the federal enforcement system to remove what AVMA calls “inherent conflicts of interest” within the horse industry.”

Ron DeHaven, DVM, the AVMA’s CEO, this week wrote an opinion piece in the Congress Blog at TheHill.com.

Dr. DeHaven, who in November 2013 testified on Capitol Hill in support of the PAST Act, wrote that the bill “languishes in the halls of Congress because some high-ranking officials do not have the guts to cross party lines and support a law that is based in common sense and the recognition of our human responsibility to protect animals that cannot protect themselves.”

“As a former USDA veterinary medical officer who oversaw the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, I know our nation’s walking horses deserve better,” he added.

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