Obama should put a ribbon on anti-soring rule before Inauguration Day

By on November 15, 2016 with 19 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The incoming Trump team, along with leaders from the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, have signaled to the Obama team that they want to see new rulemaking actions frozen. This is a bit of a ritual during any transfer of partisan power in the nation’s capital, but this year the rhetoric is at a particularly high pitch.

But not all rulemakings are alike, and not all of them are associated with partisan thinking. Some efforts, long in process and richly vetted and scrutinized, not only have immense support from the American electorate, but also huge bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. There’s no better case example than the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s long-awaited and long-delayed plan to upgrade Horse Protection Act (HPA) regulations to end the barbaric and gratuitous practice of horse soring – the intentional infliction of pain on the legs and hooves of show Tennessee walking horses and related breeds, to force them to perform the artificial, pain-based “Big Lick” gait, all for the sake of a blue ribbon.

More than six years after the agency’s own Inspector General released a scathing audit that highlighted the gross inadequacy of current enforcement efforts (which rely heavily on failed industry self-policing), and more than six years after the USDA promised to implement new regulations to fix the problem, regulatory action is still pending.

In July, the USDA announced a proposed rule to end walking horse industry self-regulation and ban the use of the torture devices that are integral to the soring process – both key components of the widely supported Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, S. 1121/H.R. 3268, which was introduced largely because the agency hadn’t acted on its own to fix these problems. The legislation is led by two veterinarians in the House, Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., in the Senate by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and it is cosponsored by 50 Senators and 266 members of Congress. The public comment period on this rule closed on October 26th and there was an overwhelming outpouring of support, with well over 100,000 commenters (including actresses Priscilla Presley and Olivia Newton-John) urging the USDA to quickly implement this proposal. Former Sens. John Warner of Virginia, a Republican, and Joe Tydings of Maryland, a Democrat and the author of the original HPA, were among the many individuals and groups who voiced their strong support.

But perhaps the most compelling evidence of the breadth of support for this action is that 41 U.S. Senators and 182 Representatives – from both sides of the aisle – sent letters to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging that the agency swiftly adopt new HPA regulations before the end of the current administration.

None of us can predict how President Trump will address animal welfare in the first 100 days of his administration or beyond. But momentum is clearly behind this much-needed rule, and it’s been delayed for years. There’s no excuse for further dilly-dallying. It’s time to close the loop on an appalling abuse, and deal with people who are abusing horses in the name of entertainment and profit. The current administration must seize this moment to fix the USDA’s deeply-flawed regulations and adopt new regulations with real teeth in them that can finally bring about the reforms needed to end soring for good – as Congress intended when it passed the law in 1970. With more than 300 lawmakers cosponsoring a bill that goes well beyond the terms of the rule, there’s no reason for partisan politics to stymie this effort as we approach the finish line. More than four decades of this continued, poorly-regulated animal suffering is far too long, and President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack have a duty to end it, now.

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Robynne Catheron says:

    What needs to be done to make this happen? My legislators have all co-sponsored the PAST Act. Is there anything we can do to put this at the top of the stack?

  2. David Bernazani says:

    Why is it taking soooooo long?? Is the US government so lethargic it can’t even pass a simple act to protect a wonderful species like horses from blatant and needless cruelty?
    Enough procrastinating! Come on and finish it already!

  3. Joe says:

    I do not agree with the wording in the updated version. Saying related breeds is very vague, saying pads and chains cause the pain is incorrect.
    Telling a marathon runner you can’t wear shoes is insane and telling athletes that use weights or bands to train is wrong. So saying that we can’t use pads on horses is wrong. Chains and other action devices is not what causes the pain.
    The Tennessee walking horse has a different type of movement than saddlebreds and hackney breeds that trot. Trotting breeds have to be sound to trot, the walking breeds doesn’t have to be sound to still do their gaits. So to classify trotting breeds in the same argument is wrong.

    • Ernie Jay says:

      We support and believe where the “wrong” is in using ANY “action devices” on ANY horse for any show. Just let the horse be natural. If he/she is not sound, then get them the H out of the ring. What on earth is being accomplished, other than ego-boosting, to put a horse through chains and pads. How do you know it’s not painful. We all know horses are sensitive–can feel a fly on their hides, but you ‘t think chains and other baloney gizmos are not painful? If the gait is not natural, then it’s got to be a crime to try to alter it in any way. If a vet prescribes any type of Rx correction “device,” then that is proof that the horse is not of show quality, possibly not sound, and needs to be pulled. The rule has to be as tough as nails, and be applied to any horse–any breed, at any time.

  4. Diana says:

    Soooo, you speak of partisan politics, well why hasn’t Sec. Vilsac and Pres. Obama stepped up and when they have had years to do so?
    I don’t think you can blame the “other” party (you know, the one you tend to vilify) for this glaring negligence.

  5. Fran Jurga says:

    Can you describe the process, especially how long it might take, if President-Elect Trump were to overturn *all* of President Obama’s executive actions, including this one, if it was to be enacted, as he has promised? Would the ultimate irony be that the HPA would be up-powered only for a month or two, and not even during show season, at that? Nothing about the HPA is ever simple.

    • Betty says:

      This is not one of Obama’s worthless executive actions, but an actual bill brought before Congress. Considering our new VP’s love of horses and riding, I think this bill would pass quickly.

      • Diana says:

        Thank you Betty. This partisan claptrap is getting old

        • Bob Zurunkle says:

          Yeah, but they did freeze it. Without making an exception. Let’s see if they reinstate it. So far, it’s March and no action from all these “horse lovers.”

  6. Debbie Pichler says:

    Please pass this to end all animal abuse in any form , with the utmost penalties to the abusers . Please help these beautiful and helpless animals.

  7. anieda kovatto says:

    Work on soring. Ban rodeos and slaughter houses

  8. Gloreen Heft says:

    Tradition, heritage based sports such as this, rodeo, bull fighting, bull riding etc are all for our barbaric designs. Animals look to us to keep them safe.

  9. Marian F. McAleenan says:

    Soring is known to be extremely cruel. I can’t imagine why it has not been stopped long before now. Thank you for listening.

  10. Clare Reece-Glore says:

    Yes please!!

  11. Linda Puleo says:

    It is imperative that abuse of horses for the sake of competing in shows be stopped.
    Soring is pure and simple inflicting pain on a horse to do something it was not meant to do. The people who do these things are self centered, heartless individuals who must be stopped from carrying out this cruel and inhumane treatment of our beloved horses.

  12. Sherry Bezanson says:

    Dear Mr. President Obama.

    Please sign the bill to pass the PAST act and add another great compliment to all the other great things you’ve done during your presidency.
    Please help the horses.

  13. Linda HinesDebney says:

    Please dear President Obama – say NO to this cruel practice. I know we cannot stop every person who will perpetrate this practice – but AT LEAST TAKE A STAND. We need you to say NO!

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