By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The pain inflicted by soring may soon be ending for Tennessee Walking, Racking, and Spotted Saddle horses. After many failed attempts, the U.S. House passed the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act House Resolution 693, by a vote of 333-96.
The entire House delegation from Illinois, all cosponsors of the bill, supported the measure. The American Veterinary Medical Assoc. (AVMA), the American Assoc. of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), and every state veterinary medical association across the country support the legislation.
“The PAST Act is an important amendment to the Horse Protection Act of 1970,” said Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action. “That law was passed by the late Senator Joe Tydings from Maryland.
“The first component of the PAST Act, if enacted into law, eliminates the use of large, stacked shoes, some 6 or 8 inches high, strapped across the horse’s foot with a metal band and attached to the bottom of the foot with a nail through a footpad.”
Soring is also the intentional infliction of pain to horses’ front limbs by applying caustic chemicals such as mustard oil or kerosene, or inserting sharp objects into the hooves. It creates an exaggerated gait known as the “Big Lick.”
The second component is that the Horse Protection Act was amended in 1976 to allow the industry to do self-policing, which has been “a joke,” Irby said. Under the new regulations, the USDA would license and train all of the inspectors, and they would be subcontractors of the federal government.
The third component of the PAST Act increases penalties, monetary fines, and prison sentences, he said.
The bill has been blocked for years by a handful of well-placed lawmakers. A new House rule now triggers consideration of any measure that attracts 290 or more cosponsors brought the issue to the floor, Irby explained.
The PAST Act attracted 308 cosponsors and was led by Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), co-chairs of the Congressional Veterinary Medicine Caucus, along with Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Ron Estes (R-Kan.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Chris Collins (R-N.Y.).
Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) will take the lead on the Senate companion bill. It has garnered 40 cosponsors so far.
“I am immensely proud to have played a role in the passage of this bill and of the bipartisan collaboration of the entire Illinois delegation in helping end the despicable practice of horse soring,” said Schakowsky, chair of the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over the PAST Act.
“This legislation is long overdue and will protect these magnificent horses from unscrupulous trainers. The PAST Act moves to the Senate with a clear message: The American people will not stand for animal cruelty in any form.”
“The natural gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse is a wonder to behold and has long been revered by horse lovers,” said Cohen. “The practice of soring – burning, cutting, lacerating – these beautiful creatures just to exaggerate their gait and win shows is beyond reprehensible. I am so pleased that more than 300 House members are sponsoring The PAST Act.”