The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and American Association of Equine Practicioners (AAEP) on Nov. 20 announced their joint support for a resolution aimed to stop the practice of soring. Cases of abuse continue to abound among Tennessee walking horses now 40 years after its prohibition in the Horse Protection Act (HPA).
Earlier this year, several walking horse industry organizations received decertification notices from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) after refusing to comply with the agency’s efforts to mandate minimum penalties for soring violations. In response to the organizations’ noncompliance and a belief that the groups weren’t capable of policing themselves, U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., introduced HR 6388, the Horse Protection Act (HPA) Amendments of 2012, on Sept. 13.
“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,” Doug Aspros, DVM, president of the AVMA, said in a release. “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.”
Soring is the act of irritating or blistering a horse’s legs or feet through the use of chemicals or mechanical devices to achieve a high-stepping gait, which is a desired effect with Tennessee walking horses. HR 6388 aims to strengthen penalties for Horse Protection Act violations and improve USDA enforcement of the act. “We strongly encourage everyone who cares about the welfare of horses to contact their members of Congress and urge them to pass HR 6388,” Aspros says.
As written, the resolution would:
• Make the actual act of soring, or directing another person to cause a horse to become sore, illegal.
• Require the USDA (rather than the industry) to license, train, assign and oversee inspectors who enforce the Horse Protection Act.
• Prohibit the use of action devices (boots, collar, chain, roller and other devices placed on the lower part of a horse’s leg) on horses at 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 and create a penalty structure requiring that horses be disqualified for increasing periods of time based on the number of violations.
• Allow for permanent disqualification from the show ring after three or more violations.
“The passage of HR 6388 will strengthen the Horse Protection Act and significantly increase the effort to end the abuse of the Tennessee walking horse,” AAEP President Dr. John Mitchell said in the release. “The AAEP encourages all veterinarians to contact their legislators to voice support for the bill and help end the cruel soring of these beautiful animals.”
Visit dvm360.com for updates on HR 6388. For more information on soring, go to the AVMA’s Soring Resource Page.