USDA moving toward mandatory penalties for horse soring

photo A frame captured from video of a Humane Society of the United States investigation show the measures taken to produce the exaggerated stride of Tennessee Walking Horses. In the video, horses are struck with clubs, shocked and have their hooves treated with chemicals and mechanical devices.

On the heels of a televised Humane Society of the United States video showing abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses, the federal government is moving toward stiffer, mandatory penalties for horse soring and other related violations.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that the agency will implement a new rule on July 9 requiring organizations that inspect horses to assess minimum penalties to violators of the Horse Protection Act, including violations from soring Tennessee Walking Horses.

Soring uses metal devices or chemicals that make the legs of Walking Horses extremely tender so they exaggerate their natural high-stepping gait.

Under the tougher rules, suspensions for one week to three years would bar show participation for violators and would apply not just to trainers, but also to horse owners, transporters and others associated with the horses' abuse, USDA officials said.

Currently, horse show-based organizations licensed by the USDA and certified by the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service help the USDA in inspecting horses for soring and other violations.

The new rule would require the inspectors of those organizations to assess the same level of federally mandated penalties in any horse show they are inspecting.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.