The painful practice of ‘horse soring’ has no place in society

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on June 24, 2021 with 0 Comments

The myriad forms of animal cruelty make for a large and grim inventory, but horse soring consistently holds a place near the top of the list. It’s a deliberate and wanton torment of horses, one secretly carried out in training barns to produce a high-stepping gait for prizes in the Tennessee Walking Horse show ring. A more pointless cruelty you would be hard-pressed to identify, and it’s been going on for decades.

Now, with the reintroduction in the U.S. Senate of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, we can finally end soring. We want an end to self-policing in the sport. We want the devices so integral to soring cast into the dustbin of history. We want to bring an end to weak and ineffectual penalties. Thanks to lead sponsors Senators Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mark Warner, D-Va., we have the legislation to get the job done, and it is long past time we saw it enacted. They’re off to a great start, with nearly half the Senate—48 senators total—already co-sponsoring this bipartisan bill.

The PAST Act would amend the 1970 Horse Protection Act, directly tackling the shortcomings in that law that have allowed horse soring to endure for so long. It would ban forever the torturous devices that are an integral part of the soring process. These include chains used in combination with caustic, burning chemicals to inflame the horses’ tender ankles, the heavy stacked shoes that cause tendon and joint damage and obscure the painful cutting and grinding of the animals’ delicate soles as well as the hard and sharp objects inserted to exacerbate the torment. These tools are all meant to create an exaggerated gait in show horses known as the “Big Lick.” PAST would also put the U.S. Department of Agriculture itself back in charge of the oversight of inspectors, scrapping the fox-watching-the-henhouse approach that has played into the hands of the sorers for several generations. Finally, it would impose penalties that constitute a meaningful deterrent, and make illegal the act of soring a horse for the purpose of showing, exhibiting or selling the animal at a public sale or auction.

In the last Congress, PAST passed the House of Representatives by a broad bipartisan margin of 333-96, when it was co-sponsored by 308 representatives and 52 senators. The nation’s leading horse industry, veterinary, law enforcement and animal protection organizations support this bill, which has been endorsed by major newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee (where soring is most prevalent).

The evidence of the need for reform has never been greater. Our undercover investigations in 2012 and 2015 at top “Big Lick” training stables provided undeniable proof of rampant soring in that segment of the industry. More recently, we conducted an analysis of Horse Protection Act enforcement data provided by the USDA covering 2018-2020. The analysis concluded that soring persists unabated—and that industry inspectors are continuing to fail to detect these violations. This is especially evident at shows where USDA veterinary officials are not present to oversee inspections.

The HSUS Our undercover investigations at top “Big Lick” training stables provided undeniable proof of rampant soring in that segment of the industry.

Last year, a faction within the soring fraternity found gullible partners in the animal protection field and tried to push through an intentionally feeble compromise measure in the waning days of the 116th Congress. We opposed that devious gambit above all because it would have reinforced the very practice that has permitted soring to thrive—self-policing by show participants. Thankfully, this newly introduced version of PAST is the real deal.

In January 2021, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a report confirming that industry inspectors often conduct improper and inadequate examinations, and recommending that USDA rely solely on qualified veterinarians as inspectors, a preference built into the PAST Act.

We’re leading the charge against soring in Congress, and we’re determined to get PAST across the finish line. You can help make that happen by contacting your U.S. Senators today and urging them to cosponsor the bill if they haven’t yet and do all they can to help secure its passage.

However, there is no reason the horses should wait for the legislation to work its way through in order to secure immediate relief from this atrocious cruelty. The USDA itself could accomplish much of what PAST attempts to achieve right now under the authority granted by Congress to the Secretary of Agriculture. That’s why we are again calling on Secretary Tom Vilsack to reinstate and publish in the Federal Register a strong rule amending the agency’s soring regulations. That measure was finalized in 2017 during Vilsack’s tenure as Secretary of the agency during the Obama Administration but shelved by the Trump Administration’s USDA. Vilsack can ban soring devices and return full enforcement oversight to his agency, where we know it belongs. As the Secretary himself understood, a tougher enforcement system and a prohibition on the instruments of soring will make a world of difference. And that’s the kind of world we’re working for.

Join us in telling lawmakers that it’s time to finally end horse soring.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Animals deserve disaster preparedness plans, too. Here’s how you can help.

By on June 24, 2021 with 1 Comment
Animals deserve disaster preparedness plans, too. Here’s how you can help.

The past few years have shown how suddenly natural disasters and other emergencies can upend our lives. Take, for instance, recent severe hurricanes and wildfires, the early 2021 deep freeze in Texas or the ongoing worldwide Covid-19 crisis. Families everywhere have seen how crucial it . . . 

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Death of chimp reveals tragic truth about primates kept as pets in America

By on June 23, 2021 with 1 Comment
Death of chimp reveals tragic truth about primates kept as pets in America

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Chinese activists save dogs from truck bound for Yulin dog meat ‘festival’

By on June 21, 2021 with 13 Comments
Chinese activists save dogs from truck bound for Yulin dog meat ‘festival’

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By on June 17, 2021 with 4 Comments
Now is the time for countries across the world to ban fur

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By on June 16, 2021 with 2 Comments
Infamous trophy hunt shows what happens when gray wolves are stripped of protections

In February, 1,500 trophy hunters took to the frigid woods of Wisconsin, armed with guns, traps, neck snares and packs of hounds, in what would be Wisconsin’s first wolf hunt in seven years. The destruction and killing they perpetrated over the next 60 hours revealed . . . 

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Chinese advocates lead the fight against Yulin’s dog meat trade

By on June 14, 2021 with 9 Comments
Chinese advocates lead the fight against Yulin’s dog meat trade

In China and a few other East Asian nations, there is a civil war playing out over the dog and cat meat trade. It is a war of ideas, attitudes, behaviors and worldviews. It is a fight that pits citizens of these nations who love . . . 

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By on June 8, 2021 with 5 Comments
Breaking: Nevada becomes 9th state to ban cages for egg-laying hens

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak just signed a bill into law making Nevada the ninth state to ban the sale of eggs that come from hens in cages. The measure also bans the cage confinement of egg-laying hens in the state. Most hens used in the . . . 

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Standing up for marine animals is the perfect way to celebrate World Oceans Day

By on June 8, 2021 with 2 Comments
Standing up for marine animals is the perfect way to celebrate World Oceans Day

Fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales remain on our planet; fins from 73 million sharks are traded every year; warming waters render habitats increasingly unlivable for animals once at home there. Clearly, the status quo for the animals of our oceans urgently needs to . . . 

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No, ‘pandemic pets’ aren’t being surrendered. But some families still need support.

By on June 7, 2021 with 1 Comment
No, ‘pandemic pets’ aren’t being surrendered. But some families still need support.

Recently, as people are starting to head back into the office, I’ve been getting questions about what’s happening with “pandemic pets” — dogs, cats and other animals who people brought into their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reporters want to know whether we have noticed . . . 

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By on June 4, 2021 with 4 Comments
Breaking: Biden administration takes steps to strengthen the Endangered Species Act

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Beagle rescued from testing lab ‘is just so happy to be free’

By on June 2, 2021 with 6 Comments
Beagle rescued from testing lab ‘is just so happy to be free’

A beautiful story came out over the weekend in the Washington Post about an 11-year-old beagle named Hammy. Adopted in 2013 after living in a research laboratory for his first four years of life, Hammy became the beloved pup of journalist Melanie D.G. Kaplan. As . . . 

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