By a 46-9 vote today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 5441), setting the stage for congressional leaders to bring it to the House floor quickly for a vote. The bill, which currently has 261 sponsors and strong support from both parties, would amend the federal Horse Protection Act to eliminate industry-self policing, ban soring devices and strengthen penalties for soring, a furtive practice in which dishonest trainers use painful techniques to induce an artificially high-stepping gait in show horses to win prizes.
Importantly, the committee approved PAST without any of the weakening changes drafted with the sorers by a single irresponsible organization that has recklessly promoted a watered-down version for the last few years. That Trojan horse measure would have made problems in the current federal law even worse and codified a system that ensured the continuing victimization of walking horses in the future. The version passed by the committee today enjoys the strong support of the Humane Society of the United States, the HSLF and many other animal, veterinary and horse industry organizations.
Soring is an unusual cruelty, carried out by a determined and lawless faction in the Walking horse industry. It enjoys no real social sanction, and it has no substantial vested interests behind it. However, it has long benefitted from the protection and support of a few influential parties in the horse world and the political sphere. That’s why it’s still around.
But that’s all changing now. The PAST Act passed the House in the 116th Congress by a broad and bipartisan margin of 333-96, largely on the strength of the evidence we and others presented documenting cruelty in the training of the horses. And it continues to command overwhelming majority support, as demonstrated by today’s vote.
As we’ve pointed out before, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack could put us on an even faster track to end soring by implementing the 2017 rule to strengthen the agency’s regulations–mirroring key reforms in the PAST Act (ending industry self-policing and the use of devices integral to soring). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that USDA had unlawfully withdrawn the agency’s rule that was finalized in January 2017 prior to its publication in the Federal Register. USDA should move to publish the rule in the Federal Register and then implement it—in order to spare thousands of horses from unspeakable suffering.
The Energy and Commerce Committee did not take action as we hoped it would do on the other equine bill of significance this session, the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act (H.R.3355), which would permanently close horse slaughter plants in the U.S. and end the transport of American horses abroad for slaughter for human consumption. However, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the committee communicated their intention to meet with stakeholders to discuss a meaningful path forward for SAFE and we look forward to working with them to find an end to the inhumane act of horse slaughter. We appreciate the strong commitment of Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., on that issue, as well as his leadership in getting committee approval of the PAST Act.
We’re also so grateful to the lead sponsors of the PAST Act, Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. (who has played a key role advancing the bill, as Subcommittee Chairwoman) and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., as well as Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mark Warner, D-Va.
As we celebrate today’s important step, there’s an action we can all take right now to get PAST over the finish line. Please contact your legislators and urge them to cosponsor the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act if they haven’t already, and to request a vote soon by the full House of Representatives.