Thursday, November 14, 2013

Proposed amendment would increase penalties for horse owners caught abusing their steeds

Industry officials from the walking-horse community claim to have mostly eliminated the act of soring—intentionally injuring a horse's front legs to make it step higher—but sponsors of amendments to the 1970 Horse Protection Act still want further legislation in place to protect animals, Ali Watkins reports for McClatchy Newspapers. While the law already outlaws soring, the amendments' sponsor, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), told the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday that he and "more than 220 co-sponsors ... claim that it’s still widely practiced throughout the walking horse industry." (Horsefund photo: show at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.)

The amendments would place substantial penalties on any show horse owner caught soring, and "would add independent overseers to the largely self-policed industry," Watkins writes. The bill also "bans the use of chains, weights and any other device intended to alter a horse’s natural gait that isn’t 'strictly protective or therapeutic.' It would restrict a person from ordering a horse to undergo soring before competition or auction and would raise financial penalties as well—from $3,000 to $5,000—for owners caught using soring. The bill also would raise the possible disqualification time from three years to five years."

Read more here:

In May, the president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, the leading Tennessee walking horse group, said "the industry needs to clean up its image and win back public support in the wake of allegations of soring." In June, a walking horse group sued the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture over new rules requiring penalties for abuse—but later accepted the penalties.

Dr. John Bennett, "a veterinarian who testified on behalf of the Performance Show Horse Association, said the compliance rates in recent years had been as high as 98 percent," Watkins writes. Bennett said, “The current compliance rates reported by the [USDA] indicate the welfare of the horse is being protected and the industry is achieving the goal of eliminating soring." Critics disagreed. Donna Benefield, the vice president of the International Walking Horse Association, told the committee, “This industry has had over 40 years to rid itself of this abuse and for numerous reasons has not only resisted but has refused reform at every turn. They have maintained, controlled and regulated soring through fear and intimidation for many years.” (Read more)

"Budget constraints restrict the Horse Protection Program, which sends USDA officials to shows to oversee horse inspections for signs of soring, said AVMA's Executive Vice President Dr. Ron DeHaven," Sarah Gonzales reports for Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter."DeHaven said 78 percent of violations during the 2012 show year were found when USDA was present, even though USDA is present at less than 10 percent of shows." He told the committee, “The act represents a unique opportunity to once and for all end the practice of soring to our nation's walking horses. I feel this bill is necessary to stop this culture of abuse that has existed for more than forty years in the industry.” (Read more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has worked with horses for even a limited amount of time can tell the horse in the photo is not striding in a health manner. Why in the world the walker industry decided that freakish gait was great is beyond me. Give me a "daisy clipping" quarter horse any day.