ASPCA Files Legal Petition with USDA to Protect Horses

Thursday, August 12, 2010 - 4:15pm

On August 4, the ASPCA filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requesting new policies be implemented to strengthen its enforcement of the federal Horse Protection Act (HPA). The ASPCA, along with the Humane Society of the United States, American Horse Protection Association, Friends of Sound Horses and former U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings, is specifically asking APHIS to toughen its enforcement of laws banning the inhumane practice of horse "soring."

Soring is an illegal training method in which pain-causing chemicals or objects are applied to horses' limbs or hoof pads to achieve the "big lick"—the exaggerated, high-stepping gait of some horses in the multimillion-dollar Tennessee Walking Horse industry. The practice often involves applying chemicals such as diesel fuel, kerosene, or mustard oil to the horse's limbs, causing severe pain. Another commonly practiced form of soring, known as pressure shoeing, involves cutting the horse's hoof to the quick and tightly nailing on a shoe, causing an extreme amount of pain every time the horse bears weight on his hoof. The Horse Protection Act was enacted in 1970 specifically to prohibit these inhumane practices. Unfortunately, soring continues to occur in the gaited horse industry.

The ASPCA’s petition seeks to permanently disqualify from competition any violators of the Horse Protection Act and any horses found to be victims of soring. It also requests that mandatory enforcement protocols be implemented and any non-compliant horse inspection groups be decertified by the USDA.

"The ASPCA is dedicated to improving the lives of horses across the country and we will continue to speak out against the illegal practice of horse soring," says Sherry Rout, Legislative Liaison for the ASPCA. "Soring is a particularly cruel form of abuse as the horses are forced to endure years of chronic pain throughout their show careers while the USDA does little to enforce existing laws."

For more information on the ASPCA’s mission to fight horse cruelty and neglect, visit our Equine Cruelty section. Please stay tuned to the ASPCA Blog for updated information on the legal petition to protect horses.