WASHINGTON, D.C. — On May 23, the U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings Memorial Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 693, secured its 290th cosponsor, triggering a new House Rule to move the measure to the Consensus Calendar and to a debate and vote on the House floor.
The measure would amend the Horse Protection Act (HPA) of 1970 and crack down on the practice of "soring" Tennessee Walking, Racking, and Spotted Saddle Horses. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is listed among the 220 Democrat and 76 Republican cosponsors. H.R. 693 is just the third measure to attract massive bipartisan support and go to the floor under a new rule promoted by the Problem Solvers Caucus.
The PAST Act was introduced in the U.S. House in January by Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Ted Yoho (R-FL) — Cochairs of the Congressional Veterinary Medicine Caucus — and seeks to close loopholes that have allowed the barbaric practice of “soring.” Soring is conducted by trainers who apply caustic chemicals to the front limbs of Tennessee Walking horses or insert sharp objects into their hooves to produce an exaggerated gait. This intentional abuse of horses produces a high stepping gait known as the “big lick,” and has been known to exist since the 1950’s.
The PAST Act was first introduced in 2013, but a few influential lawmakers blocked floor votes on the measure despite overwhelming support in both chambers. The sponsors of the bill named this year’s version after the late U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings (D-MD), who authored the Horse Protection Act of 1970 and worked for 48 years to close loopholes that the horse soring crowd used to complicate enforcement of the law. Tydings passed away last fall.
“I’ve seen horses’ feet that have been sored so badly they looked like pizza with the cheese pulled off, and it’s long past time to end the rampant abusive practice of soring that I’ve personally witnessed since childhood,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, and past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association. “We are going to get a vote and take a big step toward eradicating the soring plague that’s marred the breed for more than 60 years, and I applaud the U.S. House Members for their dedication and support.”
“My grandfather would be so thrilled about this news,” said Ben Tydings Smith, grandson of the late Senator Joseph D. Tydings. “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 and cosponsors for your generous support.”
“The PAST Act is an easy, bipartisan solution that every Member of Congress should be able to get behind, as is evidenced by the support from well over half of the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader. “Surpassing this significant number of cosponsors means we can utilize the new Consensus Calendar rule, adopted this Congress. Horse soring still runs rampant even though laws have been on the books banning this cruel practice for decades. Our bill will strengthen and improve current regulations by allowing USDA to step in since self-policing has flat out not worked over the last 20 years. I thank all of my colleagues for their support and look forward to taking a vote in the House soon as we seek to put an end to this abusive practice once and for all.”
The PAST Act was also introduced in the U.S. Senate in March by U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Mark Warner (D-VA), S. 1007, and is supported by the American Horse Council, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, United States Equestrian Federation, National Sheriff’s Association, and the veterinary medical associations from all 50 states. It attracted 340 House and Senate cosponsors in the previous Congress and is well on its way toward attracting that level of support in the new Congress.
The act is not without opposition.
The Cavalry Group is urging horsemen to write in opposition to the bill, calling it misguided. The group argues the soring of horses is already illegal under the federal Horse Protection Act. The group argues that the bill does not address the problem of unethical participants who are already in violation of existing laws.
Although the big-lick show horses are not commonly seen at shows in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or New York the matter is the focus of a movie, Awesome Gal that was recently screen at the Garden State Film Festival.
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