WASHINGTON — Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va. reintroduced legislation Wednesday, alongside Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, to protect horses from trainers intentionally applying substances or devices to horses’ limbs to make each step painful and force an exaggerated high-stepping gait rewarded in show rings, according to a press release.
The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act tackles the practice known as “soring,” which federal law currently prohibits, but a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General found that some horse trainers often go to great lengths to continue it.
“Horses have been a part of our Commonwealth’s history and culture since the settling of Jamestown, and like all animals, they deserve to be treated with care and compassion,” Warner said. “The PAST Act will further protect these animals from the cruel practice of inflicting deliberate pain and suffering for show purposes.”
The Virginia Veterinary Medical Association offered support for the legislation, saying the PAST Act is important to the veterinary community of the state.
“VVMA applauds previous legislation aimed to halt the inhumane practices of soring of horses, and the PAST act will strengthen the ban on these practices. This important legislation is strongly supported by the veterinarians of Virginia," said VVMA President Kelly Gottschalk, DVM, said in the release.
In 2017, the USDA Office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service moved to strengthen certain aspects of the Horse Protection Act by incorporating some of the major tenets of the PAST Act. However, the rule was not finalized before the end of the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration has halted the process. The PAST Act would codify these changes into law.
The PAST Act would:
• Eliminate self-policing by requiring the USDA to assign a licensed inspector if the show's management indicates intent to hire one. Licensed or accredited veterinarians, if available, would be given preference for these positions.
• Prohibit the use of action devices and pads on specific horse breeds that have a history of being the primary victims of soring. Action devices, such as chains that rub up and down an already-sore leg, intensify the horse's pain when it moves so that the horse quickly jolts up its leg.
• Increase consequences on individuals caught soring a horse, including raising the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony, which is subject to up to three years' incarceration, increasing fines from $3,000 to $5,000 per violation, and permanently disqualifying three-time violators from participating in horse shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions.
The PAST Act was previously introduced in 2018. Groups endorsed the bill including the American Horse Council, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Virginia Veterinary Medical Association.