Although there is agreement on the fact that soring is a practice that needs to be stopped, not everyone believes the HSUS's
petition offers the right solution. "HSUS's news release accusing the walking horse industry of doping horses and petitioning
the USDA to make using illegal numbing or masking chemicals on a horse's leg a felony is a blatant attempt to mislead the
public, discredit the Tennessee Walking Horse and promote their agenda," says Steve Mullins, DVM, president of S.H.O.W. (Sound
Horses, Honest Judging, Objective Inspections and Winning Fairly)—a horse industry organization certified by the USDA that
began inspecting Tennessee Walking Horses in April 2009.
"In the first place, as HSUS well knows, the USDA already possesses the ability to criminally prosecute for illegal substances.
Claiming to petition the USDA to do something they already have the power to do is disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst,"
Mullins explains. "In addition, for the HSUS to request a 'policy' change or a rulemaking by the USDA regarding its internal
authority and responsibility seems to raise the question—just how much influence does the HSUS have with the USDA?"
Werner agrees that the Horse Protection Act already prohibits anything done to avoid detection of horse soring. He isn't quite
sure, since HSUS even acknowledges this fact in its petition, what additional good it would do to ask the USDA to make the
masking of soring a felony offense. "Maybe what they mean by asking it to be prosecuted for a felony is perhaps they are implying
that prosecution has not been to the fullest extent of the law," Werner says.
The AAEP is in favor of any action that would result in the strongest prosecution allowed by law, he adds. That's not meant
as an attack on the walking horse industry, he notes, but to ensure the health of horses. "If that means USDA pulls out all
the stops, so be it," Werner says. "The Tennessee Walking Horse industry has had half a century or more to make these changes
and they haven't done it. If you're going to have rules, they've got to be enforced ... what they're doing is wrong, it's
cruel and it needs to stop."
The USDA could not be reached for comment on the status of HSUS' petition by press time.