Two vocal supporters of a federal bill aimed at toughening laws around the cruel practice of soring have condemned a new bill proposed as an alternative.
The chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, and Tennesee-based commentator Roy Exum say the widely supported Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (PAST Act) would provide far more effective protection for horses than the alternative bill.
Nearly half of all 100 senators have already co-sponsored the PAST Act. A House companion bill has 267 co-sponsors – well beyond the 218 majority needed to pass a bill on the House floor.
Pacelle, in his blog, A Humane Nation, said the PAST Act would rein in soring, in which unscrupulous trainers use chemical and mechanical irritants on the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and certain other breeds to exaggerate their high-stepping gait.
He stressed that soring had been illegal for more than 40 years.
“This [alternative] bill is being advanced precisely because a criminal element within the walking horse industry persists in its cruel treatment of horses,” he said.
“The current law, and the enforcement of that law, have not proved sufficient to deter their routine criminal conduct.
“Honest and law-abiding trainers tell us that soring is rampant in the Big Lick sector of the industry, where the high-stepping, artificially-induced gait of the horses is what wins ribbons at shows.
Pacelle said the new bill proposed by Tennessee Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn in many ways affirmed the status quo, but in other ways made the situation even worse for horses.
Pacelle’s blog criticised many facets of the new bill, including its proposal to set up a single Horse Industry Organization (HIO). It would, he said, essentially give the industry’s “bad apples” the opportunity to set the rules and manage all inspections.
“It would empower the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association to help shape the HIO board.”
It did not address the use of pads and chains, nor did it strengthen penalties which are currently so weak they are routinely ignored by those engaged in soring, he said.
He continued: “The people of Tennessee and Kentucky, as much as any people, want real reform.
“Independent surveys of their attitudes reflect this. Now, Congress, which took the reins and cracked down on dogfighting and cockfighting last month by strengthening the federal law against these spectacles of animal combat, has the same choice with another form of staged cruelty.
“I am confident that lawmakers and the public have had enough of the horse soring crowd’s gamesmanship and animal abuse, and they’ll do the right thing …”
Exum, writing in The Chattanoogan, said the proposed alternative bill would greatly reduce the measures being sought in the PAST Act.
“Blackburn’s bill would not only allow the grotesque pads, or stacks, which are believed to be used to hide ‘action devices’, but would also virtually eliminate inspection efforts called for in the PAST Act that a great many believe are now necessary to stop over a half-decade of torture and the scofflaw reaction to it.”
He labelled the bill a laughable alternative.
By contrast, the PAST Act has been endorsed by the nation’s leading equine groups and largest veterinarian organizations, he said.
“[It] is being promoted by over 50 animal protection groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, while Blackburn’s proposed bill is drawing fire from those who believe it to be a toothless ruse …”
He noted that, to date, there was no accompanying bill in the Senate for Blackburn’s bill.