A House bill receiving the support of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners could prohibit the use of action devices and performance packages on Tennessee Walking Horses.
The AVMA and the AAEP today called upon members to contact their congressional representatives in support of the bill, HR 6388.
If passed in its current form, the amended Horse Protection Act would:
- Make illegal the act of soring or directing another person to cause a horse to become sore.
- Require the U.S. Department of Agriculture, rather than the industry, to license, train and oversee inspectors.
- Prohibit the use of action devices such as boots, collars, chains and rollers on any limb of Tennessee Walking Horses, spotted saddle horses or racking horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions.
- Ban weighted shoes, pads, wedges, hoof bands and other devices not used for protective or therapeutic purposes.
- Increase civil and criminal penalties for violations.
- Disqualify horses for periods based on the number of violations, and permanently disqualify horses from show rings after three violations.
Action devices and performance packages are used to encourage horses to increase their signature high-step gait. The implements also may be used to hide chemical and mechanical irritants, according the AVMA and AAEP.
“Soring is an unconscionable abuse of horses that is used to produce a high-stepping gait—the ‘Big Lick’—and gain an unfair competitive advantage in the show ring,” said Doug Aspros, DVM, president of the AVMA. “For decades we’ve watched irresponsible individuals become more creative about finding ways to sore horses and circumvent the inspection process. It is evident that self-policing efforts by the industry have not proven to be effective, making this legislation critically important for the welfare of these animals.”
Horse Industry Organizations, the entities that put on horse shows, are responsible for enforcing penalties under the Horse Protection Act. Though officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service attend several events a year, the agency is not represented at every show, APHIS spokesman David Sacks told Veterinary Practice News earlier this year.
In June, APHIS enacted a rule change that required Horse Industry Organizations to issue minimum standard penalties to violators. Before the rule change, Horse Industry Organizations had disciplinary discretion.
The bill was referred by the House committee on Energy and Commerce to the House subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, in September, but has not yet been placed on the subcommittee’s calendar for a hearing.
The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association and the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration of Shelbyville, Tenn., could not be reached for comment.