HSUS Soring Hotline Heats Up

Just days after advertisements appeared in Middle Tennessee newspapers offering cash for information about violators of the state's anti-soring law, phones at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) began to ring.

"We received more than 20 tips from that first round of ads," said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the HSUS.

Soring is the deliberate infliction of pain on a horse's front legs, via chemical or mechanical means, to make it painful to bear weight and, thus, induce a higher-action gait in Tennessee Walking Horses and other gaited breeds.

According to Dane, the ads appeared in Spanish-language and bilingual publications in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Shelbyville, Tenn., to solicit tipsters. Spanish-language publications were specifically used in order to reach Hispanic barn employees.

"One of the tricks sorers use to avoid identification is to use the names of Hispanic employees as stated trainers on documents," Dane explained.

Unveiled in mid-March, the campaign offers a $10,000 reward to tipsters whose information leads to the arrest and conviction of anyone engaged in soring.

The practice is specifically prohibited by Tennessee animal cruelty laws, and the federal Horse Protection Act of 1970.

So far, Walking Horse breed associations are backing the strategy. National Walking Horse Association Executive Director Don Vizi called the campaign "outstanding."

In a written statement, Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association President David Pruett encouraged "every group within our industry to take a stand against questionable practices and abuse of any kind."

But support is not universal. Some newspapers and a Walking Horse-focused magazine declined to publish the ads, Dane said. He did not disclose the names of the publications.

Still, the effort has struck a chord. Along with tips, Dane said some callers are offering financial support to keep the campaign active beyond the 2008 horse show season.

Anyone with information about soring violations can call the HSUS hotline at 866/411-8326. HSUS will protect callers' identities.

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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