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Strengthening the Horse Protection Act (H.R. 6388) was introduced in the 112th Congress, which has adjourned. It has not yet been reintroduced.
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Died (Sep 13, 2012)
This bill was introduced on September 13, 2012, in a previous session of Congress, but was not passed.
September 13, 2012 - The Humane Society of the United States commends Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., with original co-sponsors Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Jim Moran, D-Va., for introducing H.R. 6388, the Horse Protection Act Amendments of 2012. This bill will significantly strengthen the Horse Protection Act, originally passed in 1970 to stop the cruel practice of “soring” – the deliberate infliction of pain to Tennessee walking horses’ hooves and legs in order to produce a high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows.
H.R. 6388 would end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of certain devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all those involved in this cruel practice. Although the Horse Protection Act was signed into law more than 40 years ago, the systematic abuse of Tennessee walking horses continues unabated. Trainers have devised a gruesome array of techniques to make it painful for these majestic horses to step down, so they will lift their front legs extremely high in the prize-winning, unnatural gait known as “the Big Lick.” H.R. 6388 is a necessary step to strengthen the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s enforcement capabilities and end this torture for good.
“Until Congress strengthens the Horse Protection Act, we expect that unethical trainers and owners will continue their illegal ways and sore horses, in order to win blue ribbons and profits,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, who attended this year’s Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration. “This legislation will make the Horse Protection Act work better, and it will fortify the existing law and outlaw training methods and devices or implements used to injure horses in these shows.”
“Far too often, those involved in showing the Tennessee Walking Horse have turned a blind eye to abusive trainers, or when they do take action, the penalties are so minor, it does nothing to prevent these barbaric acts,” Rep. Whitfield said. “This amendment does not cost the federal government any additional money and is essential in helping to put an end to the practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses by abusive trainers.”
“In Tennessee, soring horses is illegal and unacceptable,” said Rep. Cohen. “Those responsible for abusing these horses should be punished severely and banned from the sport. How we treat animals is a direct reflection of our character, both as individuals and a nation. There is no ribbon, no prize nor championship worth the price of one’s humanity.”
In 2010, the U.S.D.A. Office of Inspector General conducted an audit of the Horse Protection Act enforcement program and found that trainers in the industry often engage in soring and then go to great lengths to evade detection rather than comply with federal law and train horses using humane methods. The Inspector General's audit also called attention to serious conflicts of interest in the system that allows inspectors to be chosen by horse industry organizations. H.R. 6388 draws upon the Inspector General’s recommendations.
Most significantly, the bill aims to abolish the corrupt self-policing practices currently allowed. It requires U.S.D.A., instead of the industry organizations, to assign licensed inspectors when they are requested by show management. This reform should yield improved consistency and rigor in the inspections and penalties. Despite claims of a 98 percent compliance rate at the 2011 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, U.S.D.A.’s own inspectors found that 100 percent of horses randomly chosen there tested positive for prohibited foreign substances applied to their pasterns.
The HSUS’ undercover investigation of well-known trainer Jackie McConnell revealed that trainers can continue to sore horses and enter them into shows undetected, as McConnell did while serving a five-year federal disqualification. The investigation drew national attention and led to public outrage over the practice of soring. McConnell has since pleaded guilty to a felony conviction for charges related to conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act, and three of his associates pleaded guilty to related charges.
Earlier this year, former Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Barney Davis was convicted in federal court for violating the Horse Protection Act. According to Davis, “every trainer sored horses, I mean, every trainer sored horses. I mean, you have to. That's the bottom line…Without the soring, without some kind of soring, the horse, they’re not going to do the Big Lick.”
The bill adds a prohibition on “action devices,” typically metal chains that are strapped to the lower portion of the horse's front legs. The chains rub against and strike the tissue that has been sensitized by caustic chemicals, so the horse lifts his front legs high off the ground in reaction to the pain. H.R. 6388 also outlaws “stacks” and pads, known as performance packages, which are nailed to the horse’s hoof to add weight and height, forcing the horse to lift his feet higher and strike the ground harder, at an abnormal angle. The stacks are also often used to conceal sharp or hard objects that have been inserted into the soft tissue of the horses’ hooves to increase pressure and pain and obtain the desired gait. These devices have been widely condemned by veterinary groups, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.
H.R. 6388 also explicitly prohibits the actual soring of a horse for the purpose of showing or selling the horse, as well as the act of directing another to sore a horse for these purposes.
The bill strengthens penalties to establish a more meaningful deterrent. The current Horse Protection Act’s misdemeanor criminal penalties would be raised to felony-level, providing up to three years’ jail time for each violation, and potential fines would be doubled. A third violation could trigger permanent disqualification from participating in any horse show, exhibition, sale or auction. A recent analysis of the violation history of the top 20 trainers in the industry's Riders Cup “high point program” found that every trainer on that list in the past two years was cited for soring violations, with a total 164 violations among them. Only seven percent actually served suspension penalties – and of those, all but a handful were for a mere two-week period. Many of the trainers and judges participating in the Celebration also have records of soring violations.
PWHACA stands behind the HSUS in support for this bill. Current events have made clear the inadequate consequences for violating the Horse Protection Act. This bill will not only strengthen the punishment for violators, but will assist the USDA in controlling the inspections to root out this evil when it is found. As a sound horse group we urge you to support this bill.
9/21/12- TWHBEA Resolution on HR-6388
TWHBEA Opposes Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2012
Lewisburg, TN - In response to the proposed Horse Protection Amendments Act (H.R. 6388), which was presented on September 13, 2012 by Congressmen Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Steve Cohen (D-TN), the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ And Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) reaffirms its support of any legislation that continues to strengthen the Horse Protection Act, to promote sound horses, and to protect the overall welfare of our great horse. However, it is TWHBEA’s desire that any such legislation be fair and consistent as well as scientifically based. TWHBEA is strongly opposed to the amendment as written. As the official breed registry TWHBEA is committed to the betterment and welfare of all of the divisions of the Tennessee Walking Horse and its supporting industries.
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The Walking Horse Owners Association (WHOA) strongly opposes HR 6388 as written. WHOA has been in existence since 1976 and represents the interests of all owners, amateurs and members in all matters pertaining to the Tennessee Walking Horse. Part of WHOA’s mission is to promote the well-being of the horse so as to ensure the humane treatment of all Tennessee Walking Horses. WHOA remains a strong voice for honesty, integrity and fairness in our industry.
Mr. Whitfield’s bill does nothing to aid in ensuring the humane treatment of our breed. In fact his proposal to eliminate the Horse Industry Organizations in charge of inspecting these horses will ultimately result in far less restrictive inspections. His bill also seeks to eliminate the use of pads and action devices. There is no scientific evidence that these devices cause any harm to the horse and in fact many veterinarians support the use of pads for therapeutic purposes.
WHOA does support any legislation that continues to strengthen the Horse Protection Act, to promote sound horses, and to protect the overall welfare of our great horse. However, any such legislation should be fair and consistent as well as scientifically based, and focused on the welfare of the horse and not motivated to support the Humane Society of the United State’s strategy to eliminate an equine breed and in fact an entire industry.
The Foundation for the Advancement and Support of the Tennessee Walking Show Horse is a 501-c foundation specifically created for the promotion and preservation of the Tennessee Walking Show Horse in areas of Education, Equine Welfare and Protection with adherence to all laws. We strongly support enforcing the law as written. No science supports the premise that soring is attributable to pads or chains, while eliminating HIOs would be detrimental to horse shows and enforcement of the HPA. Our foundation has funded shoeing and thermography workshops for farriers and the general public. We have aided HIO’s by purchasing equipment that is used in the Inspection process. We aid the development of new horse shows and the preservation of those in existence. The newly proposed regulations would create a tremendous burden on horse shows, while not adequately protecting the horse. The industry has made tremendous strides in its use of technology through the Trainer’s Swabbing Initiative which we have helped fund through our Equine Welfare mission. We would ask that the department would work with the HIO’s in the industry. The HIO’s have found and enforced greater penalties in the last 3 years than the USDA has in the history of the HPA. We support stringent enforcement of the HPA as written.
We as stakeholders in the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry oppose the Humane Society Of the United States driven agenda in the form of HR6388 to destroy the Tennessee Walking Horse Show Industry. The TWH Industry has achieved a near perfect, 98%, compliance rate with the HPA according to the USDA's own information site. The HPA is a commerce clause act--not a humane act as HSUS is trying to make it. HR6388 was introduced by Representative Ed Whitfield. Whitfield's wife is the Vice President of Legislative Affairs for HSUS. This is a clear conflict of interest and is in my opinion, a violation of Ethics. Rather than trying to shove his wife's agenda down the throats of a whole industry, Representative Whitfield should be investigated by the Congressional Ethics Committee.
The primary goal of TWSHO is to implement reforms that will rid the industry of soring trainers for good. Not only do we support components of what the members of congress from Kentucky proposed, the reformers in the industry are already doing it, supporting HIOs with the strictest inspections and harshest penalties in the business.
TWSHO does have a problem with legislation that will eliminate inspectors, be they from the industry or the USDA. The elimination of HIO inspectors and a system that allows for horse shows to voluntarily request inspectors would do more harm than good by allowing for abusive trainers to go undetected and unpunished. Horses are safest when the industry and the USDA work in partnership to ensure that horses are safe and that only sound and HPA compliant horses are participating in horse shows.
The following is an explanation of TWSHO’s position on the various components of
H.R. 6388 would: “Put the Agriculture Department in charge of licensing inspectors and have it assigned an inspector to any show that requests one.”
• The Agriculture Department, or USDA, is in charge of licensing inspectors. To become certified by the USDA, each Horse Industry Organization (HIO) is required to submit a handbook that details their inspection process, rules, and how they properly administer HPA guidelines. The USDA approves the handbook every year and is a requirement for re-certification of all HIOs.
• Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs), the inspectors for the industry, are trained by USDA-certified HIO personnel.
• The 16-hour training of all DQPs is attended and observed by the USDA.
• DQPs are required to take continuing education/training classes each year in order to be recertified. A minimum of four hours is required. The required training sessions for recertification are attended by and observed by USDA personnel. The USDA provides some of the training at these sessions.
• The USDA has the power to punish and even remove the license of DQPs should the department feel they are failing to do their job.
• Currently, reputable horse shows partner with an HIO. The HIO inspectors who are certified by USDA-certified instructors and are trained by the USDA are responsible for the inspections at the horse show and they inspect every horse participating.
• Under the proposed change, horse shows would voluntarily request USDA inspectors but there is no requirement to do so. If they don’t request inspectors to be assigned there will be no inspections at said horse show unless the USDA makes a surprise visit. The USDA’s Office of Inspector General report stated that USDA can only inspect 6-10% of horses shows so that would mean at least 90% would go uninspected.
• TWSHO supports the USDA’s involvement in training and evaluating DQPs but the organization cannot support legislation that threatens and tremendously reduces the amount of inspections done by either the industry or the USDA. It is directly opposed to the welfare of the horse.
• TWSHO supports additional inspectors including "attending veterinarians" appointed by the AAEP, AVMA or USDA
H.R. 6388: “Increases the number of inspectors the agency can use for surprise inspections at shows that don’t request a licensed inspector. Funding for the increase in inspectors would come from giving the department a share of the entrance fees that horse owners pay at shows.”
• If the horse shows are not required to request that the USDA bring inspectors the result will be less inspections.
• The USDA does not have the capacity to hire an adequate number of inspectors to replace all the HIO inspectors, by their own admission. Even when the USDA inspector is in attendance, they do not inspect every horse, only a handful but the HIO inspects every horse.
• TWSHO cannot support an effort that could decrease the number of horses inspected at horse shows.
H.R. 6388 would: “Outlaw the use of ‘action devices’ that rub on sore areas of a horse to increase pain.”
• There is no scientific or other evidence, that the action devices or the pads hurt the horse. In addition many veterinarians support the use of pads from a therapeutic standpoint.
• A study by Dr. Ram C. Purohit, Associate Professor Department of Large Animal Surgery and Medicine School of Veterinary Medicine Auburn University, AL, showed that action devices do not hurt horses.
• There is no doubt that soring hurts horses. The way to end soring is to look for it, blood test, swab for masking and caustic agents, then hold those accountable and ban anyone who sores horses from the business for good.
H.R. 6388 would: Increase penalties for soring, with fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to three years or both.
• The industry has a proven track record of identifying soring trainers and punishing them even moreso than the USDA, in fact the industry punishments are far greater than what is proposed in H.R. 6388.
• In the last three years the various HIOs have suspended more than 155 trainers for one year for a finding of bilateral sensitivity – more than any other HIO or the USDA.
• SHOW HIO’s inspections, where the USDA was not even present at the show, have resulted in the first two criminal prosecutions of HPA violations in approximately 20 years.
• Recently, SHOW issued three lifetime suspensions, one 7.5-year year suspension for falsification of records, and two 1-year suspensions for swapping horses. SHOW HIO found all four of these violations at horse shows where the USDA was not present.
• Less than a month has elapsed since the 2012 Celebration and already the Industry has issued stiff and meaningful punishments. The Walking Horse Trainer’s Association (WHTA) has issued two suspensions for swabs that have tested positive. USDA still has not issued a single penalty for the swab results they received from the 2011 Celebration.
o In addition to the suspension handed down by the WHTA on the two trainers for their swab results, The Celebration stripped them of their ribbons, prize money and trophy.
o The Celebration also banned a trainer from participating in any Celebration event for two years. SHOW HIO imposed an additional five-year minimum suspension and $5,000 fine on that trainer, which is the $5,000 minimum penalty being proposed by the government.
• The USDA does not consistently punish violators of the HPA and because they have failed to do so there has been no real deterrent for soring trainers other than the industry’s efforts. Since the HPA became law over 40 years ago there have been 52 cases prosecuted by the government. This legislation will have the opposite effect on the welfare of the horse.
• The industry supports stricter penalties and the industry is already doing it and far more, be it in frequency or severity of punishment, than the USDA.
• TWSHO believes any changes should be objective based, focused on the welfare of the horse and not motivated to support the Humane Society of the United State’s strategy to eliminate an equine breed and make horses lawn ornaments.
WHAA opposes HR6388 because it is unnecessary. The Horse Protection Act in its present form is sufficient. The Tennessee Walking Horse Industry is competing with a 98% compliance rate per the USDA published information.
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