A poll in Tennessee and Kentucky has shown overwhelming support for tougher laws to prevent the practice of soring.
Soring involves the use of chemical or mechanical irritants on the lower legs of horses to encourage the higher gait that is desirable in the walking horse industry.
The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, reveals a margin of more than 5-to-1 in Tennessee and more than 3-to-1 in Kentucky in favour of tougher anti-soring laws.
Members of Congress from Kentucky and Tennessee recently introduced H.R. 6388, the Horse Protection Act Amendments of 2012, which would end the current system of industry self-policing, ban the use of chains and stacks (devices implicated in the soring process) on horses at shows, and increase penalties for violating the law.
The legislation has the support of The Humane Society of the United States, other national animal protection and horse industry organizations, as well as the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The poll found that 75 per cent of Tennessee voters and 69 per cent of Kentucky voters support the federal legislation to strengthen the Horse Protection Act, with only 14 per cent in Tennessee and 19 per cent in Kentucky opposing the bill.
Large majorities in all demographic groups and party affiliations support the legislation. In addition, voters polled in Tennessee (62 per cent to 26 per cent) and in Kentucky (45 per cent to 36 per cent) support legislation at the state level making the act of soring a felony offense.
“These poll results clearly indicate that in the heart of Tennessee walking horse country, the public strongly supports legislation to crack down on the corrupt ‘Big Lick’ industry and its widespread practice of horse soring,” the society’s director of equine protection, Keith Dane, said.
“Abusing horses for the sake of a blue ribbon is cruel, and the majority of voters have expressed their disdain for this industry by saying they would avoid ‘Big Lick’ events altogether.”
The poll results also show that Tennessee and Kentucky voters, by about a 3-to-1 margin, would avoid buying from companies providing financial sponsorship to horse shows that promote ‘Big Lick’ horses. And by a more than 2-to-1 margin, voters in both states said they would avoid attending a competition where they knew horses would be wearing chains and tall, heavy stacks or pads.
The survey of 625 registered Tennessee voters and 625 registered Kentucky voters interviewed statewide was conducted from December 3 to December 5. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 per cent.
Last week, the humane society asked 11 Tennessee District Attorneys General to acquire and test all “foreign substance swab samples” collected from Tennessee walking show horses during 2012 and to prosecute violations of state animal cruelty laws.