AVMA, AAEP, USDA Work to End Soring

 

After the USDA documented 587 violations of the Horse Protection Act—which prohibits soring in gaited horses to achieve an exaggerated, "Big Lick" gait—at 62 horse shows in 2011, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), and the USDA are joining forces to combat the practice. The organizations have also produced a video to help educate the public about soring and how to identify a sored horse.

"It's time for this ... to end," says René Carlson, DVM, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). "The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors are doing everything possible to detect evidence of soring before horses are allowed to compete.

"Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, USDA inspectors are only able to attend a small number of the shows being held," said Carlson. "It is going to take a team effort to put an end to the inhumane practice of soring horses, so America's veterinarians stand in support of government regulators and the walking horse industry in their horse protection efforts."

In 2011, the USDA documented 587 violations of the Horse Protection Act while attending only 62 of the approximately 650 gaited horse events held that year (Editor's Note: Learn more about the Horse Protection Act from Rachel Cezar, DVM, USDA horse protection coordinator, in this short video from TheHorse.com).

The USDA cited participants in the 2011 National Trainers' Show with 49 violations of the Horse Protection Act--the third highest number of violations for a single USDA-inspected show that year. Prosecution of violators has met strong political opposition, challenging USDA's efforts at enforcement and creating an environment where recidivism is the norm.

"For that reason, America's veterinarians are standing right beside USDA inspectors in urging the strengthening of the Horse Protection Act," Carlson added. "Everyone--inspectors, judges, trainers, riders and even spectators at these shows--must take responsibility for ending soring. A zero-tolerance policy being promoted by these shows would set a significant tenor for the entire show season."

The AVMA created an educational video, produced in cooperation with the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and the USDA, to provide an overview of the issue of soring and highlight the telltale signs of when a horse has been sored. The video includes an interview with Elizabeth Graves, a licensed Tennessee Walking Horse judge and gaited horse trainer, and Nat Messer IV, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, a member of both the AVMA's and the AAEP's animal welfare committees. Additional materials, including a factsheet, backgrounder, reporting procedures, and the formal AVMA policy are available for general use.

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