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.
The Music City of Tennessee takes a stand against horse soring. On August 6, 2019, the Nashville Metro Council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution RS2019-1868 in support of The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R.693 / S.1007.
Led by Councilwoman Kathleen Murphy, the Resolution also urges both U.S. Senators from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn, to cosponsor the bill and support its passage into federal law.
URGING The MEMBERS OF THE Tennessee Senatorial DELEGATION TO COSPONSOR AND PRESS FOR PASSAGE OF THE PREVENT ALL SORING TACTICS (PAST) ACT, AND ENCOURAGE THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE TO FINALIZE ITS PROPOSED HORSE PROTECTION ACT RULE IN ITS CURRENT FORM.
The Council will commence this October. A proposal to ban the exhibiting of Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses and Racking Horses that are fitted with the Big Lick “action devices” will be discussed.
It's a historic day for horse protection in The United States! The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act by a vote of 333 to 96.
The bill seeks to strengthen the Horse Protection Act and end the torturous practice of soring Tennessee Walking, Racking, and Spotted Saddle Horses.
Soring is an egregious form of animal abuse and has plagued the equine world for six decades. All for the sake of winning a blue ribbon, soring is the intentional infliction of pain to horses' front limbs by applying caustic chemicals such as mustard oil and kerosene, or inserting sharp objects into the horses' hooves to create an exaggerated gait known as the “Big Lick".
Once passed into federal law, the PAST Act would ban the use of painful large stacked shoes and ankle chains and would also eliminate the existing system of self-regulation by the industry and toughen penalties for violators of the Horse Protection Act.
The PAST Act has been blocked for years by a handful of well-placed lawmakers, but a new House rule triggering consideration of any measure that attracts 290 or more cosponsors brought the issue to the floor. The PAST garnered 307 cosponsors, and was led by U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Ted Yoho (R-FL), co-chairs of the Congressional Veterinary Medicine Caucus, along with Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Ron Estes (R-KS), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Chris Collins (R-NY).
Click here to find out if your U.S. Representative voted YES on The PAST Act, H.R.693.
On July 24, 2019, the U.S. House held a debate on The PAST Act (H.R.693). Leading the charge was Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL).
This victory is a monumental step forward in getting The PAST Act signed into law. We now need the U.S. Senate to also pass its version, S.1007. Please raise your voice for the horses today!
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.
The Humane Society of the United States released footage Thursday it says shows evidence of continued abuse to the Tennessee Walking Horse, further confirming the use of soring in the industry.
Soring is the practice of intentionally abusing a horse to accentuate its gait and often includes the use of caustic chemicals that eat away at the skin. Those who sore cause horses pain each time they step so they lift their front legs in an exaggeration of their natural gait in what is called the "big lick."
The video was taken by the United States Department of Agriculture in an inspection of the Maryville, Tenn., barn of top trainer Larry Wheelon in April 2013 and obtained with an open records request. The horses can be seen struggling to stand, walking stiffly and flinching away from the inspectors' touch. Photos from the same inspection show what appear to be scars around the horses' pasterns.
The video release comes as the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville goes into its final days for 2016, and as what appeared to be a sored stallion was discovered at an auction in Cookeville on Tuesday. The Horse Protection Act prohibits sored horses from participating in auctions, shows, exhibitions or sales.
Wheelon, who was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals, had 15 felony charges and three misdemeanors dropped, according to the Humane Society, when Blount County Judge Tammy Harrington ruled his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated in the raid.
When he was arrested in 2013, Wheelon was an active member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainers Association, sitting on its ethics committee. He did not respond to a request to comment made through his lawyer.
The USDA has since proposed some amendments to the Horse Protection Act.
One of those changes would mean the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would train and license Designated Qualified Persons to inspect the horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions for compliance with the HPA, whereas now, they are initiated and maintained by horse industry organizations. Many argue the current setup poses a conflict of interest.
Another amendment would ban the use of all action devices, pads and foreign substances at horse shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions, aligning the HPA regulations with existing equestrian standards set forth by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.
The USDA is accepting public comments on the proposed amendments until Sept. 26, but some have asked the organization to extend that deadline by 60 more days. Doing so could push the decision off onto a new administration that may not prioritize an end to soring.
Mike Inman, CEO of Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, denied that the stacks and chains cause horses to experience pain. Stacks are elevated pads attached to the horses' front hooves like high heels, and the chains are wrapped around their ankles.
"There is no big lick gait," Inman said. "Animal welfare is number one for The Celebration."
He said each horse must pass as many as 13 inspections by those belonging to horse industry organizations and the USDA, which test for foreign chemicals, palpation, locomotion, CT scanning and digital radiography.
"We urge the USDA to move away from subjective inspection and toward objective inspection," he said, arguing that digital radiography is the only objective exam. "We don't want any sore horse in the ring."
But Keith Dane, senior adviser on equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, said some can fool the machine by making a ball out of hoof clippings and acrylic to match the density of the surrounding tissue.
Inman said no one has ever been disqualified for placing a foreign object between the shoe and the hoof at The Celebration, a practice called pressure shoeing.
The horse must also be clear of visible scars.
"If (the soring) is done to the extent where it causes physical damage, they can't show them anymore," said Tawnee Preisner, founder of the Horse Plus Humane Society. "They're worthless to them after that."
Preisner said she found Skywalks Magical Dream, a 4-year-old registered Tennessee Walking Horse stallion on stacks with chains, dumped at an auction on Tuesday. She took him to an equine veterinarian, who documented the damage and scarring on the horse's skin. Dream's last owners are listed as Sammy and Gayle Cogle, the owners of last weekend's champion Extra Special Jose.
Sammy Cogle said they were no longer in possession of the horse as of last January. "I'm sorry but the lawyers told me not to say anymore."
Preisner said it's the third time she's found sored horses at an auction in Tennessee.
Dane estimates there are up to 15,000 horses put on stacks and sored at any given time. He urged the USDA to pass the reforms to stop the remaining abusers.
"The culture is evolving," he said, comparing the competition of sored horses to dogfighting or cockfighting. "People are turning away more and more."
Source: The Tennessean
Those interested in submitting a comment to the USDA can do so at: http://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=APHIS-2011-0009.
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!
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
USDA Animal Care has created a new, online form for members of the public to submit their concerns about animals that are covered under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.
The form is on our website here: It is a quick and efficient method to notify us of animal welfare concerns so we can look into those concerns. Complaints can be made anonymously; however, providing your contact information will allow us to contact you if we need additional information.
We will continue to take complaints by phone, email or regular mail. You can find contact information here.
We take all animal welfare complaints seriously and will continue to look into each one thoroughly, regardless of the method used to submit the complaint.
The Animal Welfare Act and its associated regulations set the federal standards for humane care and treatment that must be provided for certain warm-blooded animals that are: exhibited to the public; bred for commercial sale; used in biomedical research; or transported commercially. Facilities engaged in these regulated activities must provide their animals with adequate housing, nutrition, water and veterinary care, and they must protect the animals from extreme weather and temperatures.
The Horse Protection Act and its associated regulations seek to put an end to soring by preventing sored horses from participating in exhibitions/shows/sales/auctions. Soring is an illegal practice in which horses are subjected to chemical and/or mechanical irritants in order to enhance their gait. USDA Animal Care’s ultimate goal is to end this inhumane practice completely.
Source: USDA Animal and Plant Health and Inspection Service
Curb the rampant soring and sadistic abuse of animals that has made Tennessee the epicenter of horse abuse in the world
A Congressional hearing is scheduled in Washington next week for a federal bill (HR 1518) that is aimed in a very direct way at the scandalous Tennessee Walking Horse industry. The bill, along with one called S 1406 in the Senate, seeks to strongly curb the rampant soring and sadistic abuse of animals that has made Tennessee the epicenter of horse abuse in the world and will hopefully strengthen the now-toothless federal Horse Protection Act of 1971.
Thus far a whopping 216 members of Congress – 152 Democrats and 64 Republicans -- have stepped forward to co-sponsor the bill, called the PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) Act, that was introduced By Ed Whitfield (R-Ky) and Steve Cohen (D-TN). The Senate bill, sponsored by Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), now has 26 co-sponsors but what is unfathomable is the lack of Tennessee politicians who have come forward to support the bills.
Perhaps they are ashamed that there is even a need for federal legislation but the better notion is that the “Dirty Lick” crowd in Shelbyville has used its political sway to make such men as our two Senators – Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker – join those wretched souls who turn a blind eye on animal abuse in order to win a blue ribbon. Why else wouldn’t Lamar and Bob jump at the chance to rid their own state of such a hideous cancer?
Further, a check on a government website shows that of Tennessee’s nine members of the House, only Rep. Cohen has had the courage to stand up for the bill. The other state representatives are David “Phil” Roe (R-Johnson City), John “Jimmy” Duncan (R-Knoxville), Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper), Charles “Chuck” Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga), Jim Cooper (D-Nashville), Diane Black (R-Gallatin), Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood), and Stephen Fincher (R-Frog Jump, in Crockett County).
It is widely-known that Rep. DesJarlais has deep ties to the seedy Shelbyville-based crowd. He was given a fundraising party at last year’s world Celebration and has hounded the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, on behalf of the Dirty Lickers who are responsible for the now-sullied reputation of a breed that was once considered among Tennessee’s greatest treasures.
It is also widely known the Dirty Lickers have been lobbying in Washington since the bipartisan bill was introduced but with an all-star cast of over 100 veterinary, equine and other animal advocates in solid support of the legislation, even the dumbest politicians can recognize those who elect them are overwhelmingly in favor of eradicating horse abuse in Tennessee and neighboring states where soring takes place.
An informal but carefully conducted poll of the Breeders Association recently revealed that 65 percent of its active members supported the PAST Act, this despite a Board of Directors that includes some who have actually been cited for soring their horses with abrasive chemicals in hopes of an unnatural high-stepping gait that is, in a word, “grotesque” to true horsemen around the world.
Since an undercover tape of former Hall of Fame trainer Jackie McConnell viciously beating and torturing horses appeared in 2011, the Walking Horse industry – and the state of Tennessee – has been put under a microscope for its indifference to horse abuse. Both senators and every member of the state’s Congressional delegation are well aware that the notoriety gave way to the fact the state’s horse industry is a national embarrassment that badly reflects on their constituency. The vast majority of Tennesseans are not amused by the Dirty Lickers and their ongoing misdeeds.
But now that Congress is on the brink of passing the bill – only 240 votes are needed – where are Tennessee’s representatives? All are up for reelection in 2014, along with Senator Alexander, and only a fool wouldn’t realize how they vote on the PAST Act will carry over to the polls. People will not only notice how the state’s representatives will vote but they will also be reminded by opposing candidates during next year’s campaigning for votes.
It is curious that in the one state of America where leadership to stop horse abuse is most needed, it is discovered to be most lacking. Curious indeed.
Source: The Chattanoogan, by Roy Exum firstname.lastname@example.org
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. Click Here to contact your legislators: Urge them to cosponsor and support the PAST Act!