In-Depth: Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced this bill to increase penalties for horse soring and thereby end this abusive practice:
“Horse soring still runs rampant even though laws have been on the books for decades banning this cruel practice. We gave them a chance to self-police but the practice continued. Our bill will strengthen and improve current regulations by improving USDA enforcement, increasing civil and criminal penalties, and banning incentives to sore horses. It’s time for Congress to act and put an end to this abusive practice.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), who is Rep. Schrader’s co-chair on the Veterinary Medicine Caucus, adds:
“I am honored to join my fellow veterinarian, Rep. Kurt Schrader and various organizations who support the end of Horse Soring. As a veterinarian and lover of animals, we must continue to keep the pressure on a select group of bad actors in the Walking Horse industry. They must comply with existing law and stop this illegal practice for good.”
Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action and past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Asociation, expresses support for this bill:
“I’ve seen horses’ feet that have been sored so badly they looked like pizza with the cheese pulled off, and it’s long past time to end the rampant abusive practice of soring that I’ve personally witnessed since childhood. We are going to get a vote and take a big step toward eradicating the soring plague that’s marred the breed for more than sixty years, and I applaud the U.S. House Members for their dedication and support.”
American Farriers Journal notes that although this bill is aimed at owners and trainers, farriers who shoe Tennessee Walkers, Spotted Saddle Horses and racking horses could see negative impacts to their livelihoods from this bill. In American Farriers Journal’s May/June 2018 issue, Greenville, Tennessee farrier Scottie Lamons said:
“[This bill is] going to affect a lot of us who shoe Walkers, racking horses and the Spotted Saddle Horses. It’s going to throw five-gaited horses that rack, like Saddlebreds, into the picture, too. They’re eventually going to get to where they don’t want pads on any of these horses.”
While he acknowledges the Walking Horse industry’s history, Lamons argues that it has changed dramatically, negating the need for this bill:
“I know the Tennessee Walking Horse has a bad image. Probably 25 or 30 years ago, yeah, there were some people doing some stuff that they didn’t need to be doing. Now, the horses have to go through about five stages of inspections before they can even go. They’ve cleaned it up a lot over the last 20 to 25 years. These horses are treated very well.”
This bill has the support of 307 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 226 Democrats and 81 Republicans, in the 116th Congress, and has been added to the Consensus Calendar. Its Senate companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), has 39 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including 32 Democrats, five Republicans and two Independents, and has yet to receive a committee vote.
Last Congress, Rep. Yoho introduced this bill with the support of 289 bipartisan cosponsors, including 191 Democrats and 98 Republicans, and it didn’t receive a committee vote. Similarly, the Senate companion bill last Congress, sponsored by Sen. Crapo, had 45 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including 39 Democrats, four Republicans and two Independents, and also didn’t receive a committee vote.
This bill received its 290th bipartisan cosponsor on May 23, 2019, which triggered the House Rule to move it onto the Consensus Calendar and a debate and vote on the House floor. When this key cosponsor was obtained, Rep. Schrader said:
“The PAST Act is an easy, bipartisan solution that every Member of Congress should be able to get behind, as is evidenced by the support from well over half of the House of Representatives. Surpassing this significant number of cosponsors means we can utilize the new Consensus Calendar rule, adopted this Congress. Horse soring still runs rampant even though laws have been on the books banning this cruel practice for decades. Our bill will strengthen and improve current regulations by allowing USDA to step in since self-policing has flat out not worked over the last 20 years. I thank all of my colleagues for their support and look forward to taking a vote in the House soon as we seek to put an end to this abusive practice once and for all.”
This bill has the support of the American Horse Council, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, United States Equestrian Federation, National Sheriff’s Association, and the veterinary medical associations of all 50 states. In total, over 280 groups have expressed support for this bill.
Reps. Schrader and Yoho first introduced this bill in 2013, but at that time a handful of influential lawmakers blocked floor votes on it despite overwhelming support in both chambers. Past iterations of this bill have all enjoyed broad bipartisan support, with 307 cosponsors (H.R. 1518 in the 113th Congress), 272 cosponsors (H.R. 3258 in the 114th Congress) and 289 cosponsors (H.R. 1847 in the 115th Congress) each year.
Of Note: This bill is named in honor of the late Sen. Joseph D. Tydings of Maryland, who served in the Senate from 1965-1971. Sen. Tydings was the sponsor of the Horse Protection Act of 1970, and he devoted his life to to ending the practice of soring. When this bill received its 290th cosponsor, Ben Tydings Smith, Sen. Tydings’ grandson, said:
“My grandfather would be so thrilled about this news. He cared so deeply for these horses and I know he is probably looking down with a big smile on his face. On behalf of the Tydings family, thank you to all the sponsors and cosponsors for your generous support.”
Although soring cases have decreased since a law banning the practice went into effect in 1970, a 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General found that the current enforcement system is inadequate and violations continue to be widespread.
Reps. Schrader and Yoho are two of only three veterinarians in the 116th Congress.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / georgeclerk)