After almost a decade of efforts to legislatively reform the U.S. horse racing industry at the federal level, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) has claimed victory. The passage of the bill marks a historic moment for U.S. racing, which will protect racehorses from doping abuse and improve racetrack safety standards across the nation.
The bicameral and bipartisan legislation, H.R.1754 and S.4547, was supported by almost 300 cosponsors in the House and Senate. Leading the bill in the House of Representatives were Congressmen Andy Barr (R-KY) and Paul Tonko (D-NY). Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were the lead sponsors in the U.S. Senate.
The House approved H.R.1754 by voice vote in September 2020. It was then passed to the Senate where it was approved to be included in the massive final FY21 spending package. The bill was officially signed into federal law by the President on Sunday evening, December 27th.
By law, the latest HISA can go into effect is July 1, 2022. The first step is the finalization of the "Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority", comprised of nine board positions. Five of the members will be independent seats and four seats will represent the racing industry. Two standing committees will also be established; an anti-doping and medication control committee and a racetrack safety committee. The chair of the anti-doping and medication control committee will be an independent member and the chair of the safety committee will be an industry member.
The Authority is tasked with proposing rules, which then needs to be approved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC will review programs developed by the Authority, and once ratified, they will go into effect.
With the FTC acting as the umbrella agency for HISA, all proposed rules will require a period for public comment. This opportunity is important, especially as the rules may include the restriction of the use of the riding crop, which would fall within the in-race and workout safety category. As with doping, horse whipping regulations currently vary across state lines.
The passage of HISA truly marks a new era for U.S. racing, so please stay tuned for further alerts as proposed rules may be offered as early as the first quarter of 2021.
DECEMBER 9, 2020
Today, Animal Wellness Action, Animal Wellness Foundation, Center for a Humane Economy, American Horse Protection Society, Join-Up International, and Horses for Life Foundation commemorate the Golden Anniversary of the Horse Protection Act (HPA), which was signed into law on December 9, 1970 by President Richard M. Nixon and authored by the late U.S. Senator, Joseph D. Tydings (D-MD). The intent of the HPA is to prohibit the showing, sale, auction, exhibition, or transport of sored horses. However, loopholes in the law allow for horse soring to persist.
The 50th anniversary of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) is a reminder that good legislation often becomes outdated, which necessitates contemporary reforms. Such is the case with the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R.693, which aims to finally end the horrific abuse of horse soring. Following the victorious passage of the bill in the U.S. House, its only path through the U.S. Senate is through modifications made to the language which include; a ban on chains and other action devices, prohibits barbaric tail braces, and raises penalties to a felony.
RECENT LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY
In July 2019, the House passed the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R.693, by a vote of 333 to 96. But, more than 16 months after passage of the legislation, the Senate hasn’t taken even the first step of action. If the U.S. Senate does not act on the measure, it will mark 50 years of stasis on the issue.
In 2020, U.S. House Agriculture Appropriators increased funding for HPA enforcement from $1 million to $2 million thanks to the work of U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY). The funding measure included language suggesting a failed 2017 Obama-era regulation to end soring should be implemented in 2021, thanks to the work of Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). In addition, Cohen also championed a House floor amendment to provide $750,000 for a new USDA Office of Inspector General audit of its Horse Protection Program in 2021, yet not a single one of these initiatives has yet to be included in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations FY21 spending bill.
HOW TO HELP STOP HORSE SORING
Coalition of Bipartisan Lawmakers Urge Defunding of U.S. Horse Slaughter Plant Operations in FY21 Spending Bill
U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Katko (R-NY) took the lead in an effort to keep horse slaughter plants shuttered on U.S. soil.
In a letter sent to key leaders of Appropriations Committees, they urged for a continued restriction on the use of taxpayer funds for horse slaughter operations in the United States. This provision was included in both the House Fiscal Year 2021 agriculture appropriations bill and the administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request. This is a continuation of overwhelmingly popular policy that has been in place each year since Fiscal Year 2014 and for all but two years since 2005. This provision is necessary to stop the return of the predatory horse slaughter industry in America.
At a time when Congress faces difficult budgetary decisions to help Americans through the COVID-19 pandemic, expending limited funds to bolster a foreign owned industry should not be one of them. Horse slaughter is an inherently cruel practice that 80% of Americans want to see permanently banned.
Beyond fiscal concerns, flesh from American horses is not fit for human consumption. Equines are not considered food animals in the U.S. and therefore are not raised under the regulatory restrictions of animals used for that purpose. Throughout their lives, they routinely receive drugs and medications that are specifically banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in food animals due to their toxicity to humans.
85 additional U.S. Representatives signed the letter, sending a strong message to leadership that horse slaughter plants are not welcome in the USA and not one penny of taxpayer money should be allocated to fund them.
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