The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund Statement on Horse Soring Rule

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund are encouraging the incoming Biden administration to prioritize the reinstatement of the 2016 federal rule to address the abhorrent and widely scorned practice of horse soring in the Tennessee walking horse industry early in 2021. The rule, which the organizations supported through investigation, public awareness work, lobbying and litigation efforts, would strengthen the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Horse Protection Act regulations by ending the use of cruel devices integral to soring and the failed system of industry self-policing.

The soring rule, which received over 100,000 supportive public comments, including bipartisan letters signed by 182 U.S. Representatives and 42 Senators, was announced by the USDA in the closing days of the Obama Administration. But when President Trump took office, it became one of the many regulatory changes frozen and left to sit on the shelf with no explanation, no justification, and no public comment solicited.

The HSUS and HSLF sued the USDA and the Office of the Federal Register to compel the reinstatement of the rule in a case still pending in the federal courts. But Biden has a simpler pathway. He was part of the administration that championed the rule, and as president he can easily resurrect it for implementation.

Political support for effective reforms to actually end soring is abundant in Congress. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act of 2019, S.1007/H.R.693, passed the House of Representatives in July 2019 with a commanding vote of 333-96 and enjoys strong bipartisan support in the Senate with 52 cosponsors there. Recently, voters polled in Kentucky and Tennessee, the two states where horse soring is most prevalent, expressed overwhelming support for the solutions of the PAST Act, which includes much of what the 2016 rule contained.

Recently, some groups have lined up with Tennessee Walking Horse proponents to introduce a new proposal led by retiring Senator Lamar Alexander as their advocate.

“We are committed to ending horse soring, but this proposal would allow the ongoing use of devices that are involved in the soring process, institute an inspection protocol that would make it more difficult to find and issue citations for soring and allow for continued industry self-policing to trump true oversight,” said Sara Amundson, president of HSLF.

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, “We’re confident that focusing on the 2016 rule with the incoming administration is the right path, and that’s the one we’ll pursue in the weeks ahead.”

Virtually all of the national veterinary, horse industry, and animal protection groups that have worked to end soring through the PAST Act and the 2016 Horse Protection rule have analyzed the new proposal, and come to the conclusion that Senator Alexander’s proposal is a backward step. HSUS and HSLF have joined AAEP, ASPCA, AWI and HSVMA in a letter to Congress strongly opposing Alexander’s proposal, and the American Horse Council, a partner in the coalition in support of PAST, has also issued a statement of strong opposition on behalf of more than 30 organizations including the AVMA.

These groups are united in the conviction that the proposal is an effort to derail both the 2016 rule and the PAST Act – an inexplicable move, given the favorable climate around this issue as 2021 approaches, with a new President. HSUS’ and HSLF’s detailed analysis of the proposal’s specific problems, is available upon request.

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Media contact: Kirsten Peek; 202.744.3875;

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