H.R. 6388: To amend the Horse Protection Act to designate additional unlawful acts under the Act, strengthen penalties for violations of the Act, improve Department of Agriculture enforcement... Read More


This bill was introduced on Sep 13, 2012, in a previous session of Congress, but was not passed.


Date Introduced
Sep 13, 2012


Bill Text


To amend the Horse Protection Act to designate additional unlawful acts under the Act, strengthen penalties for violations of the Act, improve Department of Agriculture enforcement of the Act, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


(a) Definitions.--Section 2 of the Horse Protection Act (15 U.S.C. 1821) is amended-- (1) by redesignating paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4) as paragraphs (2), (3), (4), and (5), respectively; (2) by inserting before paragraph (2) (as so redesignated) the following new paragraph: ``(1) The term `action device' means any boot, collar, chain, roller, or other device that encircles or is placed upon the lower extremity of the leg of a horse in such a manner that it can-- ``(A) rotate around the leg or slide up and down the leg, so as to cause friction; or ``(B) strike the hoof, coronet band, fetlock joint, or pastern of the horse.''; (3) in paragraph (2) (as so redesignated) by inserting ``, including the sponsoring organization and event manager'' before the period; and (4) by adding at the end the following new paragraph: ``(6)(A) The term `participate' means engaging in any activity with respect to a horse show, horse exhibition, or horse sale or auction, including-- ``(i) transporting or arranging for the transportation of a horse to or from a horse show, horse exhibition, or horse sale or auction; ``(ii)...

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Sentiment Map



14 Supporting
2 Opposing
88% 13%

State: CA

2 Supporting
0 Opposing
100% 0%

District: 1st

0 Supporting
0 Opposing
0% 0%

Popularity Trend

Organizations Supporting

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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.

Organizations Opposing

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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.

1) The description of this bill is misleading as it does NOT strengthen horse protection. The USDA already has full authority to enforce the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and this bill is not necessary. 2) HR6388 would abolish the use of weighted shoes, pads, and action devices. There is no scientific or other evidence that legal (as described in the current HPA regulations) action devices, pads and shoes hurt the horses. In fact, a study by Dr. Purohit at the Auburn University Large Animal Surgery and School of Veterinary Medicine proved that these items did not sore or harm the horses. Additionally, this bill is discriminatory by eliminating the pads, action devices and weighted shoes for three breeds of horses and allowing all the other breeds to use such. While we know that it is safe for any breed of horse, it is arbitrary and capricious for anyone to form an opinion that this could only harm a specific type of horse. 3) HR6388 would eliminate an estimated ninety (90%) percent of our show horses in the southeastern states as it would only allow “barefoot” or “keg” shod horses to compete at shows. This would force many breeding farms and training operations to close eliminating a large number of jobs at a time when unemployment levels are already high. It would also hurt secondary businesses such as grain plants and retail feed stores, tack shops, farm equipment stores, veterinarians, farriers, trailer dealers and other retail and service oriented businesses that rely on the show horse segment of trade. 4) Various “charities” are the benefactors of most horse shows. This would cripple the many charities that depend on the annual revenue from horse shows to fund school projects, feed the needy, help cancer and trauma victims and etc. The elimination of so many shows would also hurt the motels and restaurants that benefit from horse show patronage in their area. 5) HR 6388 is spear-headed by the anti-agricultural organization, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The HSUS mission is to ban all animals used for sports or entertainment purposes. They not only want to prohibit all horse shows, rodeos and horse racing; HSUS president Wayne Pacelle says, “We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding”. HSUS grassroots coordinator John Goodwin stated, “My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture”. Please oppose this bill and do not allow HSUS to open the door for any additional anti-agriculture bills in the USA. This bill was introduced by Rep. Edward Whitefield of Kentucky. His wife is HSUS attorney Connie Harriman Whitfield who serves as the HSUS Senior advisor to Presidential initiatives. It does not seem ethical for a Congressman to use his position to influence Congress with his spouse’s employer driven agenda. HSUS is already under investigation for violating lobbyist registration laws, deceptive and/or fraudulent advertising and violations of the IRS code. For all of the many fore-mentioned reasons, we respectfully request that you oppose this bill.

The BDCG opposes this bill. HB6388 would have a disastrous effect on the Spotted Saddle/Racking/Walking horse show cultures and "Industries". The desired intent that this bill seeks to change is in the OPINION of the BDCG is not the US Governments duty to deem what is or is not natural. Changes to this bill MUST be made to truly represent the betterment of these breeds. Until reasonable changes that would not have undue and disastrous effects (banning "heavy shoes", any kind of plastic or rubber shoes (pads), horse shoe bands (to secure shoes to the hoof), and like language) is removed we strongly oppose this bill. Strong legislation to offenders found to be guilty in a court of law of abuse we strongly support. The use of objective and concise scientific inspection procedures and tools we strongly support. The removal of conflicts of interests in the enforcement roles of the HPA and modification to the ability of conflict free Inspections we strongly support. However this bill as it is written in it's whole we strongly oppose.

This year’s Celebration had the most stringent inspection process in The Celebration’s history. For the first time ever, every horse was swabbed by the industry, positive results were made public during the event, and violators were punished severely by suspending trainers’ licenses, disqualifying horses, and removing ribbons, trophies and prize monies. The immediate and harsh punishments imposed by the industry are another example of how serious the industry is about reform that will rid the sport of anyone who abuses horses.

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.

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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Users Supporting

I support H.R. 6388 (112th) ("To amend the Horse Protection Act to designate additional unlawful acts under the Act, strengthen") because... I think this says it all.

3 years ago

I support H.R. 6388 (112th) ("To amend the Horse Protection Act to designate additional unlawful acts under the Act, strengthen") because...The artificial gait known as, “The Big Lick” is of no benefit to the Tennessee Walking Horse and there is growing evidence that the pads, chains, built up feet actually cause permanent harm. The AVMA has publically called for the abolishment of the extreme pads/packages/stacks that are used to create the Big Lick gait. Add to that the fact that many trainers use blatantly abusive methods to gain a so called edge in the show ring and it is clear that the padded classes need to be shut down. The Tennessee Walking Horse folks have had DECADES to clean up their own house and willingly comply with the Horse Protection Act. Because they refuse to do so, it is up to all of us to do it for them. Thank you.

3 years ago

I support H.R. 6388 (112th) ("To amend the Horse Protection Act to designate additional unlawful acts under the Act, strengthen") because as a life -long horsewoman, I cannot countenance the use of stacked pads, metal bands, chains, pressure shoeing and soring on any horse for the following reasons: 1. The practices enumerated above cause horses to stride in an exaggerated and unnatural manner, putting tremendous stress on the animal's joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and entire body. 2. Because of the nature of these practices, the horses subjected to them cannot get relief . The stacks, bands and pressure shoes stay on the horse every day all day during the show season. Even standing still, they change the natural angles of the horse's leg causing stress and pain. 3. These practices are intended to cause the horse pain and imbalance as that is what results in the exaggerated and unnatural stride that is seen by a very small group as desirable. 4. It is obvious to equine veterinary professionals and all horsemen not involved with this practice how harmful it is to the horse. I hope that the members of the Massachusetts delegation will support H.R. 6388 (112th).

3 years ago

I support H.R. 6388 (112th) ("To amend the Horse Protection Act to designate additional unlawful acts under the Act, strengthen") because... Some time ago (over 40 years), an unfortunate law was incompetently written to stop abuse of the gaited horse: The Horse Protection Act. It was incompetent in that it did not recognize the total abuse in the way a real horseman would. You see it inadvertently legalized another abuse of the horse: the stacking, chaining and heavy weighting of the hoof. By declaring these 'devices" legal, Congress made the USDA the steward of an affront to professional horsemen of not just the world, but also of the many before us who perfected great horsemanship through the centuries, from Xenephon to Gene Autry. They are turning in their graves over what the USA has permitted to be done to the gaited horse. Several esteemed and recognized professional horse associations have sponsored HR6388. Please hear them out and undo the legalization of horse abuse. Revisit HR6388.

3 years ago

Users Opposing

I oppose H.R. 6388 Strengthening the Horse Protection Act will destroy the performance horse by eliminating pads and action devices which do not see or harm the horse and eliminate thousands of jobs and revenue for the state and thousands of charities. The Tn Walking Horse has been targeted by the HSUS and the media with inaccurate information. The Tennessee Walking Horse has more care than any other animal and more inspection which is often unnecessary and subjective. Please consider Congresswoman Blackburn' s and Sen. Alexander's Bills. Thank you

1 year ago

Bill Summary

H.R. 6388: To amend the Horse Protection Act to designate additional unlawful acts under the Act, strengthen penalties for violations of the Act, improve Department of Agriculture enforcement of the Act, and for other purposes.

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