The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a new rule to strengthen enforcement against horse soring by amending regulations set by the Horse Protection Act.
Soring is a cruel practice that includes use of caustic chemicals that 'cook' into the horse’s flesh and forcing horses to wear heavy, binding, high-heel-like shoes, and metal chains around their sored ankles.
© 2017 by Randall Saxton New window.
This rule would eliminate the industry-run enforcement system and instead assign sole responsibility to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to screen, train and authorize inspectors. The USDA also proposed to disallow the use of devices and substances that are integral to soring and to make other needed reforms.
“Soring should have ended in this country over half a century ago,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “A tougher, unbiased enforcement system and prohibition on soring instruments is imperative to finally protect horses from soring.”
“Soring is a perverse cruelty, carried out in secret by scofflaws seeking to cheat their way to glory in the show-ring,” said Sara Amundson, president of Humane Society Legislative Fund. “It’s high time the full authority of the USDA be realized through implementing this rule in final form. No industry deserves to operate with such unfettered abject animal cruelty.”
Horse soring is an undeniably cruel practice in which trainers slather the limbs of show horses with caustic chemicals, then wrap them with plastic to “cook” into the horse’s flesh. In training and competitions, trainers force the horses to wear heavy, binding, high-heel-like shoes, and metal chains that knock repeatedly against their sored ankles. Some even cut the hooves down to the delicate tissue and jam in hard or sharp objects.
The Horse Protection Act was originally passed in 1970 to end soring. However, for decades, the USDA’s regulations have enabled the industry to self-police—a system rife with conflicts of interest that has allowed soring to persist and flourish.
Data from the USDA from 2018-2020 revealed that USDA inspectors found violations at a 403% rate higher than industry inspectors, underscoring the failure of internal oversight. A 2010 USDA audit report also condemned this system, leading to new regulations announced in 2017.
Unfortunately, those regulations were withdrawn soon after by a new administration, prompting the HSUS to sue the USDA for that action, resulting in the U.S. Court of Appeals finding that the withdrawal of the rule was unlawful.
Ending horse soring has overwhelming bipartisan support, including through the federal Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act that would codify key elements of the HPA rule. Since the USDA itself could accomplish much of what the PAST Act aims to achieve, Congress has also expressed support for upgraded regulations, through appropriations language calling for the swift proposal, finalization, and publication of the new final rule.
Founded in 1954, the Humane Society of the United States fights the big fights to end suffering for all animals. Together with millions of supporters, we take on puppy mills, factory farms, trophy hunts, animal testing and other cruel industries. With our affiliates, we rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals every year through our animal rescue team’s work and other hands-on animal care services. We fight all forms of animal cruelty to achieve the vision behind our name: A humane society.
Learn more about our work at humanesociety.org. Subscribe to Kitty Block’s blog, A Humane World. Follow the HSUS Media Relations department on Twitter. Read the award-winning All Animals magazine. Listen to the Humane Voices Podcast.
Humane Society Legislative Fund works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues and support humane candidates for office. Formed in 2004, HSLF is incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code as a separate lobbying affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States.
Press release by Erica Heffner