On his first day in office, President Donald Trump issued a memorandum that could have devastating consequences for show horses subjected to a painful practice known as horse soring.
According to USA Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a regulation just a week before Barack Obama left office that would update the Horse Protection Act, effectively banning horse soring and putting an end to unsuccessful self-policing that was in place before. The rule can only be enforced if it’s published in the Federal Register, which did not happen before Obama stepped down.
Among the methods of horse soring that would be banned are: putting a chain around a horse’s ankles during training, putting weights on the animal’s front hooves, filing down a horse’s hoof to the sole so it comes in direct contact with the shoes and injecting or rubbing irritating chemicals into a horse’s foreleg.
Meanwhile, as Trump was settling into the Oval Office he signed a memo forcing all currently unpublished rules to be put on hold and sent back to their respective agencies for review. Among those rules is the federal regulation on horse soring, a controversial practice where a show horse’s forelegs or hooves are painfully irritated to accentuate the animal’s gait in the ring.
“The USDA rule would strengthen regulations to end the cruel practice of soring – the intentional infliction of pain on the hooves and limbs of Tennessee walking horses and racking horses to induce the pain-based show gait known as the Big Lick. The rule would eliminate the failed system of industry self-policing that the USDA’s own Office of Inspector General deemed corrupt and ineffective in a 2010 audit, and prohibit the use of large stacked shoes, ankle chains, and other harmful devices that the American Horse Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association and many others have said are integral to the soring process,” the Humane Society of the United States said in a statement.
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The USDA had finalized, announced and published online the update to the Horse Protection Act, but since the rule had not been published in the Federal Register by the time President Trump took office, it was put on hold as part of the memorandum.
“Now only the Trump administration can revive this long overdue rule, which enjoyed enormous bipartisan Congressional backing by 224 Senators and Representatives, and generated more than 100,000 public comments in support. Congress also can and should take action by passing the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act that had 323 cosponsors in the last session, but we urge the Trump administration to take an honest look at the issue and to publish the rule and adopt it,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS, said.
The current hold on the horse soring update does not mean the rule won’t be passed. After reviewing the legislation, the Trump administration could decide to push it through without any changes.
If the rule does go through, the practice of horse soring would essentially end the cruel tricks used to accentuate Tennessee walking horses, and other show horses who use high-stepping gait, which is scored as part of competitions.
To enforce this ban under the new rule, horse inspectors would need to be licensed through the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Currently, the horse industry trains its own inspectors, which opponents say is a conflict of interest that leads to horse soring being purposely overlooked.
Supporters of the rule, who come from both sides of the aisle and include horse lovers like Priscilla Presley, hope that the currently unconfirmed Trump agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, will move the regulation forward and end this painful practice.