Representatives Steve Cohen (TN-09), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Chris Collins (R-NY) pen letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking him “to do everything possible to vigorously enforce the Horse Protection Act” as the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration begins in Shelbyville, Tennessee.
“We encourage the USDA to ensure a strong and consistent enforcement presence at this year’s Celebration, and to utilize the full range of both objective and subjective inspection protocols developed by the department.” See the full text of the letter here.
The five letter signers were the lead sponsors of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R.693, that passed the House last month by a vote of 333 to 96. The bill would stop the intentional injury to horses.
The 81st annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration began today and runs through August 31.
Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) reintroduced The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act , S.1007, to protect horses from the abusive practice known as “soring,” in which show horse trainers intentionally apply substances or devices to horses’ limbs to make each step painful and force an exaggerated high-stepping gait rewarded in show rings.
Although federal law currently prohibits soring, a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General (IG) has found that some horse trainers often go to great lengths to continue this inhumane practice.
“Horses have been a part of our Commonwealth’s history and culture since the settling of Jamestown, and like all animals, they deserve to be treated with care and compassion,” said Sen. Warner. “The PAST Act will further protect these animals from the cruel practice of inflicting deliberate pain and suffering for show purposes.”
“I support the humane treatment of all animals and the responsible training of horses,” said Sen. Crapo. “I remain committed to ending the cruel practice of soring, and will continue to promote enforcement of current animal welfare laws.”
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act would:
In 2017, the USDA Office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) moved to strengthen certain aspects of the Horse Protection Act by incorporating some of the major tenets of the PAST Act. However, the rule was not finalized before the end of the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration has halted the process. The PAST Act would codify these changes into law.
Joining Warner and Crapo in the introduction of The PAST Act, S.1007, are U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Today Co-Chairs of the Congressional Veterinary Medicine Caucus, Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05) and Congressman Ted S. Yoho (R-FL-03), introduced the U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings Memorial PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) Act to amend the Horse Protection Act of 1970, ending the abusive practice known as horse soring. This is the third consecutive Congress that Reps. Schrader and Yoho, veterinarians for more than 30 years and two of only three veterinarians currently in Congress, have introduced the PAST Act.
Soring is the practice of intentionally injuring the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses to exaggerate the leg motion of these high gaited horses. Even though it’s been illegal for over 50 years, it’s still widely practiced.
“Horse soring still runs rampant even though laws have been on the books for decades banning this cruel practice,” said Rep. Schrader. “We gave them a chance to self-police but the practice continued. Our bill will strengthen and improve current regulations by improving USDA enforcement, increasing civil and criminal penalties, and banning incentives to sore horses. It’s time for Congress to act and put an end to this abusive practice.”
“I am honored to join my fellow veterinarian, Rep. Kurt Schrader and various organizations who support the end of Horse Soring. As a veterinarian and lover of animals, we must continue to keep the pressure on a select group of bad actors in the Walking Horse industry. They must comply with existing law and stop this illegal practice for good,” said Rep. Yoho.
The bill is named in honor of Senator Joseph D. Tydings of Maryland who served in the Senate from 1965-1971. Sen. Tydings sponsored the Horse Protection Act of 1970 and devoted his life working to end the practice of soring. Last Congress, the bill received the support of 290 bipartisan cosponsors. The legislation is also supported by more than 280 organizations, associations and groups, including both veterinary advocates and horse industry professionals, supporting putting an end to this unnecessary and inhumane practice.
On Nov 18, 2004, the United States Senate passed by Unanimous Consent, to officially designate December 13th as National Day of the Horse. The founding intent was to encourage people to be mindful of the contribution of horses to the economy, history, and character of the United States.
As horse lovers and enthusiasts, please take time today to celebrate equines! In addition to taking your horse on a special ride or taking a fresh bag of carrots to your local horse rescue, you can also show your devotion and appreciation by helping both domestic and wild horses with your advocacy.
Click Here to learn more about how you can TAKE ACTION on the many important horse issues. And don't forget to share the information with your friends, family and colleagues. Horses need as many voices as possible to help protect them!
Text of The National Day of the Horse: U.S. Senate Resolution 452
December 2nd marks the beginning of "Giving Tuesday", an international campaign of giving back. There are many ways to give back to equines, including donating to rescue organizations and volunteering. Another valuable way to express gratitude for horses and burros is to TAKE ACTION and advocate for their protection and welfare.
There are important bills pending in Congress that are vital to the protection of equines, including legislation regarding Horse Slaughter, Horse Soring, Horse Transportation Safety, and Regulating Doping in the Horse Racing industry.
Please take the time to lend your voice to equines and contact your legislators! Click Here for the Action Alerts you can participate in. And take an extra step and share these issues with your friends, family, and colleagues!
Any equine rescue group will tell you, volunteers are priceless! Find a rescue organization with a mission you believe in and help their efforts. Helping out a horse / burro rescue doesn’t have to mean mucking stalls—you can help organizations remotely from the comfort of your home. Ask rescue groups how you can contribute your skills and talents, such as administrative or social media assistance.
Non-profit rescue groups rely on the generosity of equine lovers! Donating any amount of money helps organizations cover the cost of caring for the animals and keeps their operations running. Expenses for rescues include hay, supplemental feed, medical care, farrier work, and transport. Groups that are involved with cruelty seizures often incur exorbitant costs for treating animals that need extensive rehabilitation.
Donating, volunteering, and advocating are acts of kindness--and a necessity to help keep horses & burros well cared for and protected. On Giving Tuesday and all year round, THANK YOU to all those that spend their time and resources helping equines.
~ © Horses For Life Foundation ~
USDA Reports Inspectors Issued Nearly Twice as Many Horse Soring Violations at this Year’s Walking Horse Show
Federal and local inspectors issued nearly twice as many soring violations at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration as in the 2013 show, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released this week.
A group of largely USDA monitors found 219 violations of the Horse Protection Act during the 11-day competition in Shelbyville. Those figures come after years when fewer violations — including last year’s low of 110 — were identified at the championship event.
The jump in violations comes as the Tennessee Walking Horse industry continues to writhe over accusations of widespread soring, which happens when a horse’s legs are hurt intentionally to exaggerate the high gait for which the breed is known. While industry reformers call for a federal law they say would eliminate the major causes of abuse, others say more objective testing would weed out the industry’s worst trainers and owners.
The report said those apparent signs of soring disqualified 166 competitors during the event — 15.4 percent of all of the horses inspected. [Click Here to read full USDA report]
The vast majority of the violations and disqualifications developed from horses that had signs of a banned substance on them or through the industry’s scar rule, which prohibits horses with past signs of soring from being shown.
The figures proved that federal officials were willing to enforce Horse Protection Act regulations at a higher rate than others designated to inspect, said Keith Dane, vice president for equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States.
More than 50 percent of the 389 horses inspected at the Celebration by USDA officials showed signs of soring, the federal report said.
“All these years the industry has said they’ve solved the problem, yet soring is still rampant,” Dane said.
Celebration CEO Mike Inman questioned the difference shown from this year’s figures, saying that federal officials enforced the scar rule differently than in years past. He said that using fewer subjective ways to monitor a horse would bring more consistent inspection results.
“We’ve had the same horses and the same inspectors for years,” Inman said. “The only thing that’s changed is the interpretation.”
Officials with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said no inspection procedures were altered during the Celebration, department spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said.
Instead, she said, inspectors were using more advanced technology to identify sored horses and penalize their trainers. This year, thermal imaging was used to better recognize abnormal temperatures that can show signs of abuse.
“Soring practices are always evolving and require APHIS to incorporate state of the art technology to capture soring techniques that may not be visible to the naked eye,” Espinosa said in an email.
She did not respond to additional questions about whether the technology used was tied to this year’s rise in violations.
Call for legislation
Because of the technology present, Dane slammed the calls for more objective testing by Celebration officials.
“They ask for science, and when they don’t like the results, they object,” Dane said. He cited the number of violations in repeating his call for Congress to approve the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, which would ban the chains and special pads tied to the most competitive levels of the industry.
Inman supported alternative legislation that he said would strengthen current laws and provide more objective ways to evaluate a horse and eliminate the field’s worst abusers.
“The PAST Act seeks to eliminate soring by eliminating the breed,” Inman said.
Only one of the USDA violations was issued against a flatshod horse, a performance category that doesn’t use padded shoes or other devices. Because multiple violations could be issued to a horse, the number of violations could differ from the number of disqualifications, the report said.
Source: The Tennessean by Brian Wilson Reach Brian Wilson at 615-726-5970 and on Twitter @brianwilson17
HELP PROTECT HORSES FROM THE CRUELTY OF SORING!
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S. 1406 / H.R. 1518) will amend the Horse Protection Act to end the industry’s failed system of self-policing, ban the use of devices implicated in the practice of soring, strengthen penalties, and make other reforms needed to finally end this torture. Please contact your U.S. representative and ask them to cosponsor the PAST Act!
A plea deal is in the works for Horse Slaughter hauler, Dorian Ayache, that could include no prison time
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A plea deal is in the works for a slaughter-horse hauler that could include no prison time and a fine of less than $25,000. Dorian Ayache is the owner of Three Angels Farm in Lebanon, a trucking company whose rickety trailers wrecked on the interstate twice in 2012, endangering drivers and causing several injured horses to be euthanized.
Ayache was facing 26 years in prison for violating a U.S. Department of Transportation order to shut down after inspectors found numerous safety violations.
Tuesday, Ayache entered a guilty plea in federal court. If it's accepted, all the charges against him will be dropped except one: failing to maintain a current driver's log. The maximum fine he faces is $25,000. Ayache would serve six months in prison at most, but he could end up serving no time at all.
"I think it's a pretty trivial sentence," said Leighann Lassiter, the Tennessee director of the United States Humane Society.
"This violation, number one, resulted in endangering thousands of people on the road, but also contributed to the suffering of thousands of animals who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in his care," Lassiter added.
Ayache was transporting horses to the Mexican border, where they were to be slaughtered for human food that is sent overseas.
The federal government criminally charged Ayache with continuing to operate an unsafe trucking operation after being ordered to shut down. The Department of Transportation found Three Angels Farm's equipment in disrepair and its drivers' logbooks inaccurate.
Scott York was driving the Three Angels trailer that broke in half on I-440 in 2012. He told Channel 4 that Ayache ordered drivers to stay on the road for longer than the law allows.
"He taught me how to fudge a log book," York told Channel 4 in 2012. During that time, York said, the horses were not given water, food or rest. And if the horses went down, he said, they were given electric shocks. "He makes you cattle-prod them up," York told Channel 4.
After the government shut down Three Angels Farm, Ayache hauled horses under a different company's name, Terri's Farm. Its owner, Theresa Vincent, is being offered the same plea deal of zero to six months in prison and a fine of less than $25,000.
The sentences aren't set in stone. The plea agreements have to be approved by a federal judge. Sentencing is set for Nov. 21.
Source: WSMV by Nancy Amons
WSMV slideshow of Ayache's trailer that was hauling horses that crashed on I-40 im 2012
Burros are among my favorite of the animals residing at our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, with their long ears and friendly stares. We have a couple hundred of rescued burros there, and visitors seem to have a special fascination with them, too. As with all of the animals at the ranch, they've landed there because of some tale of woe - in most instances, because the burros have gotten a raw deal from the federal government, which manages, or mismanages, their populations on the vast reaches of public lands in the West.
Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the federal government, through the Bureau of Land Management, is mandated to maintain populations of wild horses and burros in the 11 western states where they live. There are only about 40,000 wild horses and only 8,000 burros, and three quarters of the horses are in just two states - Nevada and Wyoming. The remaining states have relatively small populations, typically with 3,000 or fewer animals. There are millions of cattle and sheep on those federal lands, yet ranchers complain of too many wild equids.
The government has been rounding up and removing horses and burros, ostensibly to control these wild populations and minimize their ecological impact. In the process, the feds have been building a captive equine population now in the tens of thousands, at short-term and long-term holding facilities. Just last week, the BLM released new information that its personnel and contractors would round up nearly 2,400 more wild horses and burros this year. The cost of the round ups and housing and feeding the animals is now cannibalizing about two-thirds of the budget for the program, which has been widely regarded through the years as a case study of mismanagement.
For years, we have pressed the Bureau of Land Management, which runs the program, to focus instead on fertility programs to manage populations - a solution that the National Academy of Sciences also recommended in a report commissioned by the BLM. The BLM has been slow to implement the recommendations of the NAS.
Now, in what can only be described as a case example of poor decision-making, BLM is undertaking a pilot program with the Department of Defense and Heifer International and intends to allow the transport of 100 burros to residents in Guatemala, for use as working animals. While burros have been traditionally used for this purpose, this use is at odds with the provisions of WFHBA, which requires that the BLM's first priority has to be the humane treatment of wild burros in their care.
We are not insensitive to the difficult and challenging lives of people and animals in Guatemala and other developing countries, and we acknowledge the value and importance of working animals worldwide. Through Humane Society International (HSI) and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Program (HSVMA) affiliates, we have a robust and proactive assistance program that helps provide veterinary care and other resources in these countries. But Guatemala has burros of its own, and does not need shipments of burros compliments of the BLM - a practice that simply relieves pressure on BLM to revamp its program and protect our nation's heritage of responsibly managing wild horses and burros.
We do work with BLM, through our Platero Project, to adopt out burros to suitable owners. So far this year we have placed 190 burros and we remain committed to getting more burros placed in good, local homes. Ultimately though, the solution must be on-the-ground management through fertility control, to obviate the costly and dangerous round-ups and removals and to prevent the population boom of horses and burros in captive holding facilities.
Source: The Humane Society of the United States
TAKE ACTION >>> Guatemala has burros of its own and does not need shipments of burros from the United States. Contact BLM now to keep our nation's wild burros on American soil.
Horse-drawn carriages could soon be a thing of the past in New York City's Central Park after Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced plans to outlaw the popular tourist attraction once in office.
"We are going to get rid of horse carriages, period," de Blasio said at a news conference Monday, saying that the practice is inhumane.
"No tourist comes to New York City just to ride on a horse carriage," Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, an animal rights group, told CNN.
"Horses do not belong in a congested, urban setting," NYCLASS states on its website. "They constantly breathe exhaust while dodging dangerous traffic ... confined to the shafts of their carriage and their tiny stable stalls, with no access to green pastures."
Steven Malone, a horse-carriage driver since 1987, said that allegations of horse abuse are "ridiculous."
"These horses lead exceedingly great lives here," Malone told CNN. Malone said that horses would be sent to paddocks, where they would have less interaction and exercise and would be far less happy. Malone also disputed claims that horses are overworked, saying that all horses get at least five weeks of vacation time, and some get up to six months.
De Blasio and NYCLASS favor replacing the horse carriages with electric antique cars driven by the same carriage drivers, which would be more humane and still be appealing to tourists, de Blasio said.
"You can't create tradition. You can't create kids coming with smiles on their faces to pet the horses," Malone said. "You're not getting that with an electric car... Kids can't pet fenders."
De Blasio, who takes office January 1, has hired legal counsel who will deal with the legislative approach, he confirmed at the news conference.
Malone and his fellow horse-carriage drivers plan to fight back in court. The proposed law would have to be approved by the City Council before any horses are removed from New York City streets.
"We want to provide the same service that we've been providing since the park opened in 1858," Malone said.
Source: CNN by Allie Malloy
Congressman Ed Whitfield defends interaction between his official actions and his wife’s lobbying.
Ethics experts said that the Whitfields could be violating House rules through their joint lobbying for legislation, although these experts cautioned that it isn’t a cut-and-dried case.
“If it were Boeing and they were doing this, it would be a really big deal,” said Melanie Sloan, head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. While Sloan applauded the Whitfields for disclosing their activities — something that has been one of the major problems in other ethics cases — she said the joint lobbying of members and staffers is troubling.
“I can’t see a flat-out ethics violation, but I can certainly see it creates an appearance problem, and it would seem like the better course would be for them not to be lobbying together; that seems inappropriate to me,” Sloan said.
Veteran ethics lawyer Stanley Brand said the activity does raise questions because lawmakers aren’t supposed to gain personal benefit from their official duties.
“It’s not that easy to get from those general standards to a violation,” Brand said. “There have been cases before where spouses have been registered lobbyists and their husbands or wives are on committees where those companies have interest and that’s never been enough to get you to a violation.”
Whitfield is hardly alone when it comes to lawmakers with relatives who lobby. Dozens of congressional relatives are registered lobbyists, and oftentimes, lawmakers with family ties on issues weigh in on legislative proposals. Congress cracked down on ethics reforms in 2007, banning spouses from lobbying a member’s personal office staff and the lawmaker. Other lawmakers whose relatives have lobbied include: the wife of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) as a lobbyist at Kraft Foods and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), whose father — former Rep. Bud Shuster — served as a contract lobbyist.
Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle defended Harriman-Whitfield’s involvement pushing the horse legislation.
“I think sometimes when folks look at issues like this, they nitpick on it as a conflict of interest and I just want to say, No. 1, there is a real difference in working for a coal company or an oil company or any big business, pharmaceutical company and working for a nonprofit organization where there is no financial incentive to gain as an institution,” Pacelle said. “The track record of both Connie and Ed is deep involvement in animal welfare far preceding Connie’s involvement in the Humane Society. She came to the Humane Society because she was already very, very involved on these issues personally.”
Further, Pacelle said that he meets with Whitfield to discuss legislative issues, not Harriman-Whitfield. Pacelle said he didn’t see anything wrong with Whitfield and his wife personally lobbying his colleagues together on the issue of animal cruelty.
“It’d be a shame if our society didn’t allow spouses to advocate for ending poverty in the world, or advancing other core values of our society. I’m not sure what she’s supposed to do, just be mute on these issues with his colleagues,” Pacelle said.
Harriman-Whitfield has a history of advocating against animal cruelty long before joining the Humane Society Legislative Fund in 2007. As assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks for the Department of the Interior under President George H.W. Bush, Harriman-Whitfield is credited with playing a major role in instituting the U.S. and worldwide ban on the elephant ivory trade.
Harriman-Whitfield now serves as senior policy adviser for the Humane Society Legislative Fund and has been engaged in federal lobbying since early 2011. During this two-year period, the HSLF spent $90,000 on in-house lobbying activities, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports. An outside lobbying firm billed the organization an additional $60,000 so far this year, according to another report.
Whitfield’s annual financial disclosure report does not include his wife’s compensation from the Humane Society.
For his part, Whitfield said his standing with the Humane Society hasn’t always been good, although he provided POLITICO with a long list of legislation he has offered dealing with animal welfare during his time in Congress.
“Sometimes I’ve had a good record with them and sometimes I have not had a good record with them, but I’ve been involved in a multitude of issues, so from my perspective there absolutely is no violation of ethics laws and if someone thinks there is they can file a complaint,” Whitfield said, noting that he has a 62 percent rating in the group’s 2013 midterm score card.
Source: Politico by John Bresnahan and Anna Palmer