New Walking Horse Bill Expands Blackburn Legislation

New Walking Horse Bill Expands Blackburn Legislation

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has introduced federal legislation that would crack down on soring while preserving what the bill calls the "traditional" Tennessee Walking Horse industry.


Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has introduced federal legislation that would crack down on soring while preserving what the bill calls the "traditional" Tennessee Walking Horse industry. The bill expands on similar legislation introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.

Last year, U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) introduced HR 1518, the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, which would increase penalties for anyone who sores a horse, and would require the USDA to assign a licensed inspector if Tennessee Walking Horse show management indicates its intent to hire one. The bill would also forbid trainers from using action devices, including metal chains, and stacks and pads used in performance packages. That bill is pending, while a twin bill is pending in the Senate.

In February, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced HR 4098, the Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2014. Blackburn's bill would create one horse industry organization (HIO) to manage horse shows where Tennessee Walkers would be exhibited. Under HR 4098, that HIO would be composed of equine veterinarians and industry experts who would develop and implement protocols, guidelines, testing policies, and inspection policies for the industry. Under the legislation, these industry experts would be drawn from states most impacted by the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.

The bill also requires 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 ban the use of metal chains or performance packages. That bill remains pending in the House's Energy and Commerce Committee.

Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners oppose HR 4098 on grounds that the legislation does not prevent the practice of soring.

On April 1 Alexander, along with senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), introduced legislation modifying HR 4098 bill to require the HIO created in Blackburn's bill contract with “equine veterinary experts”; those experts would advise the HIO on the methods of testing for banned substances and about the interpretation of test results. Alexander's bill also creates a 30-day suspension of horses found to be sore for the first time; penalties rise to 90-day suspensions for each subsequent offense. Finally, the bill would establishe a 4-year term limit for anyone who serves on the HIO board of directors.

In a written statement Alexander said the entire Tennessee Walking Horse industry should not be punished for the cruelty of some of its members. Instead, legislation should find a way to stop cruelty while preserving the Tennessee Walking Horse tradition, his statement said.

“In baseball, if a player illegally uses steroids, you punish the player—you don’t shut down America’s national pastime,” Alexander said. “With Tennessee Walking Horse shows, when trainers, owners, or riders illegally sore a horse, we should find a more effective way to punish and stop them—not shut down one of Tennessee’s most treasured traditions.”

In a written statement, Whitfield said Alexander's and Blackburn's bills fail to strengthen the current Horse Protection Act to eliminate soring in the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry.

“Any legislation that does not ban stacks and chains, does not eliminate the failed self-policing inspection system, does not increase criminal penalties to provide a truly effective deterrent, and does not strengthen the USDA’s ability to enforce the Horse Protection Act will only continue to perpetuate the horrific practice of soring that has plagued the Tennessee Walking Horse for more than half a century,” Whitfield said.

Alexander's bill remains pending in the Senate.

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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