Veterinarians Oppose Blackburn Bill

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) have issued statements opposing a bill introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives last month as an alternative to anti-soring legislation introduced last year. 

Last year, U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) introduced HR 1518, or the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. That bill would increase penalties for anyone who sores a horse; would require the USDA assign a licensed inspector if a Tennessee Walking Horse show management indicates its intent to hire one; and would forbid the use of action devices, including metal chains, and stacks and pads used in performance packages. HR 1518 remains pending.

On Feb. 26, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced HR 4098, or the Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2014, which would create one horse industry organization (HIO) to manage shows where Tennessee Walking Horses are exhibited. Under the legislation, that HIO would be composed of industry experts (drawn from states most impacted by the Walking Horse industry) and equine veterinarians, who would develop and implement protocols, guidelines, testing policies, and inspection policies. The bill would also require that testing used during horse inspections be done “though objective, science-based methods and protocols,” and preserves the oversight structure between the Walking Horse industry and the USDA. The bill does not forbid trainers from using metal chains, or stacks and pads used in performance packages.

Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, assistant director of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division, said the association opposes HR 4098 because the proposed legislation doesn't make soring illegal and doesn't address action device use.

“That’s because the supporters of the legislation know that by taking action devices and performance packages away, we remove one more tool from their abusive toolbox,” Miller's statement said.

The AAEP joined the AVMA in opposing Blackburn's bill on grounds that HR 4098 fails to make soring illegal, fails to prohibit action device use, and permits industry self-regulation.

“HR 4098 seeks to continue the industry’s ineffective self-regulation model instead of giving the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority it needs to license, train, and oversee independent horse show inspectors,” the AAEP statement said.

Rather, "the AAEP supports the passage of the PAST Act because it will strengthen the Horse Protection Act and significantly increase the effort to end the abuse of the Tennessee Walking Horse," said Jeff Blea, DVM, AAEP president.

No one from Blackburn's office was available to comment.

HR 4098 remains pending.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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