In an important victory for Tennessee Walking Horses, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings Memorial Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (H.R. 693) by a vote of 333–96. The PAST Act would end the cruel practice of injuring the hooves and legs of horses to alter their gait during certain walking horse competitions. It represents the most significant protections for Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds since passage of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) in 1970.

The bill, named in honor of the late Maryland senator who shepherded the HPA through Congress, amends that law to combat the inhumane practice of “soring,” whereby individuals intentionally inflict pain on horses’ hooves and legs to force the animals to adopt an exaggerated high-stepping gait during competitions involving Tennessee Walking Horses and similar breeds. Methods used to sore horses include applying diesel fuel and kerosene to burn the skin, grinding down hooves to expose sensitive tissues, and applying sharp or abrasive objects to tender areas to maximize pain. Under the current system of industry self-policing, individuals who abuse horses often go unpunished.

“This is a historic moment for horses that have been subjected to this brutal practice in the name of competition,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute. “Soring will persist as long as trainers, owners and others involved in walking horse shows are not held unaccountable for their actions and even rewarded by winning prizes.”

“There are few bills that enjoy such broad bipartisan support,” Liss added. “Fortunately, lawmakers recognize the severity of the problem and the need to protect Tennessee Walking Horses from abuse. We urge Senate leadership to quickly pass the PAST Act to provide much-needed enforcement and harsher penalties for repeat offenders.”

A version of the PAST Act was first introduced in 2012 during the 112th Congress. Over the years, the bill has garnered tremendous support from animal welfare groups, the equine industry and the veterinary community. Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Ted Yoho (R-FL), co-chairs of the Congressional Veterinary Caucus, along with their fellow lawmakers Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Ron Estes (R-KS), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Chris Collins (R-NY) introduced H.R. 693 in January of this year. By early summer, the bill had surpassed 290 cosponsors in the House, meaning that under current rules it could move directly to the floor for a vote before the full chamber.

“Horse soring still runs rampant even though laws have been on the books for decades banning this cruel practice,” Schrader said. “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 the beautiful horses that we love so much.”

“As a veterinarian and lover of animals, it is time we end the inhumane practice of horse soring,” Yoho said. “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. 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.”

You can learn more about the issue of horse soring here, as well as urge your senators to support the bill.