The American Veterinary Medical Association has identified numerous pieces of federal legislation, including competing bills that address the soring of horses, as high-priority items for its Governmental Relations Division.
The organization reported Dec. 15 that it will devote resources to lobbying for the approval or defeat of nearly a dozen proposals winding through Congress.
Leading the animal welfare section in AVMA’s “Legislative Agenda for the 114th Congress” is the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, an amendment to the Horse Protection Act. A previous version died when the last Congress failed to act.
The new PAST Act, introduced in the House by veterinarian and U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, would outlaw soring devices such as boots, collars and chains that cause a high-stepping, unnatural gait in performance horses. The bill also would make the actual act of soring illegal and increase civil and criminal penalties.
The legislation is up against another bill, the Horse Protection Amendments Act, which purports to target soring but which AVMA’s assistant director of governmental relations, Elise Ackley, DVM, compared to a smokescreen.
The competing legislation was introduced by politicians representing Tennessee and Kentucky, two states at the center of the walking horse show industry. Dr. Ackley criticized the House version, which was sponsored by Tennessee Congressman Scott DesJarlais.
“Unlike the PAST Act, DesJarlais’s bill retains the horse industry self-policing structure that has repeatedly failed to resolve soring since its establishment more than 40 years ago,” Ackley stated. “This legislation is nothing more than an attempt to maintain the status quo in an industry riddled with abuse.
“DesJarlais’s bill does nothing to improve the penalty structure for violations of the Horse Protection Act and also fails to prohibit the action devices and performance packages that are used to hide and worsen the effects of soring.”
The PAST Act and the Horse Protection Amendments Act were referred to congressional committees and, like many bills, may never come to a vote on the floor of Congress. The website www.govtrack.us gives the AVMA-supported legislation about a 50 percent chance of being enacted and the competition just a 2 percent chance.
AVMA is actively pursuing passage of six other bills:
- Horse Transportation Safety Act, which would “prohibit the transportation of horses in interstate commerce in a motor vehicle … containing two or more levels stacked on top of one another.”
- Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, which would “amend the federal criminal code to prohibit intentionally engaging in animal crushing” but allow the practice in cases such as pest control and medical or scientific research.
- Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) Enhancement Act, which would exempt from federal income tax the awards given to veterinarians who practice in underserved areas.
- Student Loan Interest Deduction Act, which would increase the maximum tax deduction and repeal income-based phase-outs.
- Student Loan Refinancing Act and the Eliminating the Hidden Student Loan Tax Act, which focus on, respectively, the refinancing of student loans and the charging of loan orientation fees.
AVMA is actively pursuing the defeat of the Fairness to Pet Owners Act and the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. The first would require veterinarians to provide clients with a copy of their pet’s drug prescription. The second would amend the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act “to preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials used in the treatment of human and animal diseases.”
An assortment of lower-priority bills carry “support,” “nonsupport” or “no action” rankings.