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Vet body urges more action against horse soring

Thermographic image showing excessive warmth (seen as red and orange colors), which may be caused by inflammation from soring. The pattern seen is consistent with soring using a chemical agent.

Thermographic image showing excessive warmth (seen as red and orange colors), which may be caused by inflammation from soring. The pattern seen is consistent with soring using a chemical agent. © USDA

America’s veterinarians are standing alongside US Department of Agriculture inspectors in their opposition to the abusive practice of soring, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says.

It said strengthened regulation and more funding for horse inspections would help end the practice, which has been illegal for more than 40 years.

Soring is the term used to the describe techniques involving the use of chemical or mechanical irritants to cause hypersensitivity in the lower legs of horses. The irritation encourages the animal to adopt the higher gait favoured in the walking horse industry.

The AVMA said the start of the gaited horse show season had heightened its commitment, along with the Department of Agriculture and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to end soring.

“It’s time for this egregious form of animal cruelty to end,”  AVMA president Dr Rene Carlson says.

She said USDA inspectors were doing everything possible to detect evidence of soring before horses are allowed to compete, but budget restraints meant inspectors were able to attend only a small number of the shows being held.

“It is going to take a team effort to put an end to the inhumane practice of soring horses, so America’s veterinarians stand in support of government regulators and the walking horse industry in their horse protection efforts,” she said.

In 2011, the USDA documented 587 violations of the Horse Protection Act, under which soring is policed, while attending only 62 of the 650 or so gaited horse events held that year.

Inspector cited participants in the 2011 National Trainers’ Show with 49 violations of the act – the third highest number of violations for a single USDA-inspected show that year.

Prosecution of violators has met strong political opposition, challenging USDA’s efforts at enforcement and creating an environment where recidivism is the norm, the AVMA said.

“For that reason, America’s veterinarians are standing right beside USDA inspectors in urging the strengthening of the Horse Protection Act,” Carlson said.

“Everyone – inspectors, judges, trainers, riders and even spectators at these shows must take responsibility for ending soring.

“A zero-tolerance policy being promoted by these shows would set a significant tenor for the entire show season,”  she added.

The AVMA has created an educational video, produced in co-operation with the AAEP and USDA, to provide an overview of the issue of soring and highlight the tell-tale signs of when a horse has been sored.

The video includes an interview with Elizabeth Graves, a licensed Tennessee Walking Horse judge and gaited-horse trainer and Dr Nat Messer, a member of animal welfare committees for both the AVMA and AAEP’.

The AVMA said it was confident that with appropriate recognition of the inhumane nature of soring; increased reporting of abuse; and stronger legislative and regulatory action, including adequate funding for inspections, the offspring of today’s sored horses won’t have to suffer tomorrow.

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