Roy Exum: Stop Soring! No More Pads!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The American Veterinary Medical Association – with 82,500 professional members – and the American Association of Equine Practitioners – with another 10,000 who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of horses – delivered a savage kick in the face to the despicable “Big Lick” crowd in Shelbyville early this week when the two groups called on Congress to soon pass the Amendments to the Horse Protection Act, House Bill No. 6388.

The amendments are badly needed since there has been continued and rampant abuse of soring in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry this year. The “Big Lick” faction has openly scoffed at efforts of horse advocates to eliminate the torture and sadistic practices for 40 years since the Horse Protection Act was put into law, but now the country’s top veterinarians and equine experts have joined  an enraged public eager to put those who torture horses in jail.

Dr. Doug Aspros, the president of the AVMA, said in a statement, “Soring is an unconscionable abuse of horses that is used to produce a high-stepping gait—the ‘Big Lick’—and gain an unfair competitive advantage in the show ring. For decades we’ve watched irresponsible individuals become more creative about finding ways to sore horses and circumvent the inspection process, and have lost faith in an industry that seems unwilling and/or unable to police itself."

“The AVMA and AAEP are committed to strengthening the USDA’s ability to enforce the Horse Protection Act,” said the White Plains, N.Y., veterinarian, “and ending this abuse for good. We strongly encourage everyone who cares about the welfare of horses to contact their member of Congress and urge them to pass H.R. 6388.”

Dr. John Mitchell, the president of the AAEP, was more direct, correctly pointing out the national outcry towards those who have sullied the noble image of the Tennessee Walking Horse. "The passage of H.R. 6388 will strengthen the Horse Protection Act and significantly increase the effort to end the abuse of the Tennessee Walking Horse," said the Boca Raton, Fla., veterinarian. "The AAEP encourages all veterinarians to contact their legislators to voice support for the bill and help end the cruel soring of these beautiful animals."

The Horse Protection Act, established 40 years ago, was never successfully prosecuted until federal agents from Chattanooga won five guilty pleas this year. One was from the now-famed Jackie McConnell, a trainer from west Tennessee, who brutally clubbed a horse in an undercover video that has now been seen by millions the world over. Because of woefully-lax federal laws, every violator got a suspended sentence – including the loathsome McConnell.

The proposed amendments to the Horse Protection Act will provide the following distinctions that will greatly strengthen the act:

* -- Makes the actual act of soring, or directing another person to cause a horse to become sore, illegal;

* -- Requires the USDA (rather than the industry) to license, train, assign and oversee inspectors enforcing the Horse Protection Act;

* -- Prohibits the use of action devices (e.g., boot, collar, chain, roller, or other device that encircles or is placed upon the lower extremity of the leg of a horse) on any limb of Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle horses, or Racking horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions and bans weighted shoes, pads, wedges, hoof bands, or other devices that are not used for protective or therapeutic purposes;

* -- Increases civil and criminal penalties for violations, and creates a penalty structure that requires horses to be disqualified for increasing periods of time based on the number of violations; and

* -- Allows for permanent disqualification from the show ring after three or more violations.

Many feel the Amendments will fly through Congress but the “Big Lick” industry is far from dead; they swooned Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper) at a “fundraiser” during this year’s National Celebration. The Humane Society of the United States has since learned the much-maligned DesJarlais has an equally shameful record voting on animal issues. He was even called down for “harassing” the USDA by former Senator Joseph Tidings, the author of the Horse Protection Act.

Recent revelations have proven DesJarlais to be little more than “a bad Republican joke” in Washington circles but reports that a horse’s hoof was actually torn off while it was being shown in Shelbyville last Saturday is not funny at all. It happened at the aptly-named “Walking For Angels Show” and horse advocates are enraged that nothing was done after the horse’s bloody leg was wrapped and the animal was led from the show ring.

As the head of the American Veterinary Medical Association just said, “For decades we’ve watched irresponsible individuals become more creative about finding ways to sore horses and circumvent the inspection process, and have lost faith in an industry that seems unwilling and/or unable to police itself.”

That’s enough to make you write your Congressman on Thanksgiving Day.

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