By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
On the House floor Monday night, the House of Representatives voted 304 to 111 to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act into law. With just a few weeks remaining in the 117th Congress, getting a vote in the Senate will take some effort. But with this resounding vote in the House, we’ve witnessed—and helped to deliver—the clearest possible message that Americans are sick of horse soring and want to see it abolished. Now it’s time to get the job all the way done.
Soring is one of those animal cruelties that just seems to hang around, defying the political equivalent of gravity. Most everyone despises it, but it survives through the efforts of an obstinate minority faction in the Tennessee walking horse sector and by the grace of a few well-placed political allies. Slowly but surely, however, we’ve been grinding away at the social and political cover soring has traditionally enjoyed, and we’re closer than we ever have been to getting rid of it.
Our leadership in the fight to stop soring has included hard-hitting undercover investigations, the mobilization of strong bipartisan support in the Congress, pressing for regulatory reforms via the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and consistently reinforcing with the public and legislators what’s wrong with soring and why there can be no compromise or half measures in the approach to ending it.
Soring involves unscrupulous trainers deliberately inflicting pain on horses’ legs and hooves to force an exaggerated, high-stepping gait called the "Big Lick." To achieve it, they use crude and ruthless techniques, including the application of caustic chemicals that burn horses’ flesh, along with chains and heavy, stacked horseshoes. There are even trainers who cut horses’ hooves down to the delicate tissue so they can push in hard or sharp objects to make the pain even more severe whenever horses put weight on their front legs.
With the House vote behind us, we’re going to focus full-tilt on getting the measure through the Senate. And we’re counting on the momentum resulting from House passage to propel other channels of reform in the fight to stop soring. We expect the House vote to send a clear signal to USDA that these reforms have broad bipartisan support, so that the agency will take its responsibilities to enforce the Horse Protection Act more seriously and expedite its ongoing rulemaking to fix the current weak regulations implementing that federal law.
We also hope that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will direct the agency to reinstate its 2017 Horse Protection Act rule, that will implement many of the reforms contained in the PAST Act—consistent with the ruling issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit earlier this year.
There has never been greater agreement on the simple point that horse soring must end, and soon. We’re going to act with the urgency and determination that the situation demands, and we’re asking you to join us in pressing for Senate approval in the coming weeks.
Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.