The Preventing All Soring Tactics Act (PAST Act) (H.R.1518 / S.1406) is gaining momentum in the United States Congress. It currently has nearly 300 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and nearly 60 co-sponsors in the Senate.
For those who are unfamiliar with the bill, it seeks to amend the Horse Protection Act (HPA) to strengthen the law prohibiting soring tactics (commonly used in Tennessee Walking Horse training). In other words, it is an act intended to deliberately cause pain to the horse in order to exaggerate the leg motion of high-gaited horses.
Horses are sored in many ways. Caustic materials (e.g., kerosene, mustard oil) may be used to injure the skin of the lower leg, the hoof and/or sole may be ground to expose sensitive tissues, hard objects may be inserted between the shoe pads and the sole, metal hoof bands may be over tightened, or improper shoeing techniques may be used. Irrespective of technique, the purpose of soring is to cause the horse pain so that it lifts its legs faster and higher (known as the “big lick”).
Editor’s Note: YouTube has several videos showing extreme cases of cruelty in this industry, with several from HSUS (the Humane Society). We warn you that they are graphic and disturbing, which is why we opted not to include any here.
If passed, the PAST ACT will:
· Define “action device” to include any boot, collar, chain, roller, or other device that encircles or is placed upon the lower extremity of the leg of a horse in such a manner that it can: (1) rotate around the leg or slide up and down the leg, so as to cause friction; or (2) strike the hoof, coronet band, fetlock joint, or pastern of the horse. Excludes from such term soft rubber or soft leather bell boots or quarter boots that are used as protective devices.
· Create a penalty structure that requires horses to be disqualified for increasing periods of time, based on number of violations (from 180 days to 3 years).
· Require USDA to license, train, assign and oversee inspectors enforcing the HPA.
· Make the actual act of soring or directing another person to cause a horse to become sore illegal.
· Prohibit use of action devices on any limb of Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle horses, or Racking horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions. Also bans weighted shoes, pads, wedges, hoof bands, or other devices that are not strictly protective or therapeutic in nature.
· Increase civil and criminal penalties for violation.
· Allow for permanent disqualification for violators on their third or higher violation.
Amazingly enough, the Horse Protection Act was passed in 1970 to stop soring – yet the practice still continues today due to a lack of needed components in the original law.
In the House, it remains bottled up in the Energy and Commerce Committee, where Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, an opponent of the PAST Act, is vice-chairwoman. Perhaps now is the time to tell her what you think.