The Humane Society of the United States applauded recommendations set out in the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ newly released white paper, “Putting the Horse First: Veterinary Recommendations for Ending the Soring of Tennessee Walking Horses.”
The Association’s recommendations include: immediate implementation of a drug testing program at horse shows; the abolishment of the industry-run Designated Qualified Persons self-regulation program, turning inspection duties over to qualified veterinarians; 24-hour security personnel and inspectors in the stabling areas of show grounds where violations are known to occur; and the establishment of much more severe penalties for Horse Protection Act violations than in the past.
“The soring of Tennessee Walking Horses is one of the most egregious forms of equine abuse and it is time for it to be brought to an end”, said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States. “Ending soring is a top priority of The HSUS and the AAEP paper echoes many of the same concerns we’ve raised and the changes we’ve been recommending. We are very pleased that AAEP has taken a stand for the welfare of the horse and believe its influence will be a valuable asset in the continued fight to end soring. We urge the Walking Horse industry to immediately end the cruel treatment of its horses.”
Soring involves the use of caustic chemicals, chains and other irritants on the legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and other gaited breeds, causing severe pain and forcing an exaggerated, high stepping gait. Soring is considered so cruel that, in 1970, Congress passed the Horse Protection Act giving the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority to inspect horses at shows and other venues for signs of soring. While the HPA was intended to eliminate soring, inadequate funding and spotty enforcement of the law has allowed widespread soring to continue.
Because USDA does not have the funding to attend every show, the agency created the Horse Industry Organization program of self-regulation, which allows trained civilians, known as Designated Qualified Persons, to conduct inspections at shows. Many of the DQPs are directly involved in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and The HSUS has long criticized the effectiveness of the HIO program, calling it a case of “the fox watching the henhouse.” The AAEP white paper cites similar concerns with the DQP program and calls for its abolishment.
In addition to the Horse Protection Act, there are several state laws that prohibit soring. Currently, The HSUS is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction under Tennessee's anti-soring statute. Earlier this year, The HSUS and other horse industry groups formed The Alliance to End Soring to work with the USDA, Congress and Tennessee Walking Horse industry stakeholders to advocate for increased enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and raise public awareness of the pervasive use of soring in the industry.
In 2006, the annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn., failed to name a World Grand Champion when most of the finalists were disqualified for violations of the federal Horse Protection Act.
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