Baltimore Post-Examiner/PAST Act: Horse protection bill passes House in a landslide
Legislation Named For Late Senator From Maryland
WASHINGTON – Today, by a vote of 333 to 96, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings Memorial Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. The measure seeks to strengthen the nearly forty-year-old Horse Protection Act and end the torturous, painful practice of soring Tennessee Walking, Racking, and Spotted Saddle Horses.
Debate on the bill (HB 693) continued until almost 11 pm last night, at which time Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) demanded a recorded “Yea or Nay” vote.
PAST builds on a 1970 law authored by the late U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings (D-MD).
“The Horse Protection Act is a federal law that prohibits sored horses from participating in shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions. The Horse Protection Act also prohibits the transportation of sored horses to or from any of these events.” (USDA-APHIS)
“Soring involves the intentional infliction of pain to horses’ front limbs by applying caustic chemicals such as mustard oil or kerosene or inserting sharp objects into the horses’ hooves to create an exaggerated gait known as the ‘Big Lick’,” explained Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL.) “Soring has plagued the equine world for six decades.
“When people do these things to horses to win a blue ribbon, I think that’s unconscionable. So you’re either for animal abuse, or you’re against it. Horses have a natural gait. Some are blessed, like people, with more athletic ability. It comes down to the trainer – a good trainer that does the ethical thing to accentuate that gait naturally. I challenge the breeders out of Tennessee – you can set the breed standards of the future if you do away with this garbage.”
Though the bill mainly addresses questionable and illegal training practices in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio, PAST had the nationwide support of more than 300 Representatives, including co-sponsorship by the entire Maryland delegation and the Representative from DC.
“My reason for supporting the PAST Act is simple: soring is cruel and inhumane,” said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD.) “I share the outrage of my constituents at those who chose to abuse animals and it’s time we finally implement laws that are already on the books banning this practice.”
Critics of the bill, such as Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) questioned the annual cost of enforcement (about $2,000,000 per year), and alleged that USDA inspectors sometimes abuse what critics see as a “subjective process.”
DesJarlais said he also finds it concerning that the PAST Act would increase fines and penalties – including up to three years for offenders – while still utilizing what some see as subjective inspection methods.
Critics in Congress of the PAST Act have offered as an alternative H. R.1157
Overwhelming Support for the PAST Act
“We applaud the House for overwhelmingly passing the PAST Act to end (the) barbaric and indefensible practices that stained the horse show world for decades,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action and past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association. “Today’s landslide vote is a powerful signal to the Senate that it should saddle up and end this cruelty to horses once and for all.”
SB 1007 is the corresponding bill in the Senate.
“I am pleased the House passed the PAST Act with strong bipartisan support today,” said U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). “This legislation will close loopholes that enable the cruel practice of ‘soring’ horses. I thank Rep. Schrader for being a champion of animal welfare issues and building on the legacy of my late friend, Senator Tydings. I urge Senator McConnell to take up this bipartisan legislation without delay.”
Following the vote was Ben Tydings Smith, grandson of the late Senator Joseph D. Tydings.
“My granddad would be so thrilled the PAST Act passed the House by such an overwhelming margin,” said Tydings Smith. “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, cosponsors, and Members of the House who voted to end soring and cement grandad’s legacy.”
Reaction From PAST Act Bill Sponsors
A Tennessee Walking Horse performing running walk at the Milton Horse Show (DanDee Shots – Wikimedia Commons)
“Horse soring still runs rampant even though laws have been on the books for decades banning this cruel practice,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR). “We gave folks a chance to self-police, but the abusive behaviors continued. The bill that was passed today will strengthen and improve current regulations by improving USDA enforcement, increasing civil and criminal penalties, and banning incentives to sore horses. This is a historic day and I am grateful for my colleagues who worked tirelessly to get this legislation across the finish line and for our equine athletes who provide us with inspiration and pleasure.”
“As a veterinarian and lover of animals, it is time we end the inhumane practice of horse soring. I want to thank House Leadership for bringing the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act up for a vote today and my colleague and fellow veterinarian Rep. Kurt Schrader for championing this bill with me over the years,” said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL). “The walking horse industry had plenty of time to self-police and change their ways, but they decided to press on. They have failed to take advantage of this opportunity and now it is time for horse soring to end.”
“The natural gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse is a wonder to behold and has long been revered by horse lovers,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), an original sponsor of the PAST Act. “The practice of soring—burning, cutting, lacerating—these beautiful creatures just to exaggerate their gate and win shows is beyond reprehensible. I am so pleased that more than 300 House members are sponsoring The PAST Act. How we treat animals is a reflection of our national character. Today, we can be proud that the House has spoken loudly on behalf of the horses and those who love horses.”
The Senate version (which has moderate partisan support) has been read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.