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June 19, 2014

Horses Need Your Help in Climbing Steep (Capitol) Hill

DUTCH
Dutch, a Tennessee walking horse, was subjected to soring. Photo: The HSUS

Thanks to The HSUS and some individuals who care deeply about horses, Dutch is safe today, protected by people looking out for him. But his story is not only a tale of woe, but also an extraordinary biographical intersection of two major horse-abuse problems The HSUS is working hard to address on the national level: “soring” and slaughter.

A Tennessee walking horse, Dutch had been a show horse subjected to soring,  an illegal practice where trainers inflict severe pain on the legs and feet of horses by mechanical or chemical means to cause them to step higher – a gait known as the “Big Lick” – and to win ribbons. 

Yet after his owners decided they were done showing him, they heaped another cruelty upon Dutch – selling him to people intent on slaughtering him for meat.  Last year, he would have been killed and cut up, just one more healthy American horse sent to slaughter, but for the intervention of The HSUS and the caring folks at Omega Horse Rescue in Airville, PA, who turned his life around.

Wayne Pacelle
I joined horses and their owners yesterday in the Walk on Washington, a rally on Capitol Hill to support the PAST Act. Photo: Valerie Pringle

We’ll make sure he’ll never enter either domain of horse exploitation – not to be intentionally abused again for show ribbons, or put into a kill box at a slaughter plant for human consumption.


But while Dutch had a remarkable turn of fortune, we cannot intercept and rescue all the horses in the soring industry or the slaughter pipeline.  Instead, we need policies to prevent this cruelty, so that no one tries to do this to animals in the first place. 

Yesterday, the All American Walking Horse Alliance led a rally of Tennessee walking horse owners to urge support for the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, S. 1406 and H.R. 1518.  This legislation, backed by The HSUS, the American Horse Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and many others, would increase penalties for illegal soring, ban the use of devices implicated in soring (stacks that conceal sharp and hard objects jammed into the tender foot and chains that rub against flesh burned with caustic chemicals), and eliminate a failed, corrupt industry self-regulation system. The House bill has an astonishing and almost unheard of 293 cosponsors, and the Senate bill has 56 – meaning that more than two-thirds of House members, and more than half of the Senate are actively supporting the legislation.

Keith Dane
Keith Dane, vice president of equine protection at The HSUS, addresses participants at the Walk on Washington. Photo: Valerie Pringle

We are working to get the PAST Act passed, as a free-standing bill, or as an amendment to a larger bill.

At the same time, we are working to maintain language in the Fiscal Year 2015 agriculture spending bill to bar horse slaughter plants from reopening on American soil.  We won House and Senate votes on this issue in their appropriations committees, but our adversaries may try to offer amendments to strip this anti-horse-slaughter language during Senate and House floor debate. You can call your federal lawmakers and speak out against slaughter and soring.


The Congress, with The HSUS helping to drive the debate, now has some major equine welfare issues in the saddle.  In Dutch’s story, we see precisely why these horse protection reforms must be enacted, and urgently so.

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