Horse Protection Act Amendments Introduced

WASHINGTON, (American Horse Council) – On September 13, Congressmen Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced the Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2012 (H.R. 6388) in the House of Representatives.  The bill would amend the Horse Protection Act (HPA), which prohibits the soring of a horse or the showing, exhibiting, transporting or sale at auction of a horse that has been sored.  Soring involves the use of any device or the application of any substance on a horse’s leg and as a result it suffers pain or distress when moving.  Horses are generally sored to produce a more pronounced gait.

The bill would make it unlawful for a Tennessee Walking Horse, a Racking Horse, or a Spotted Saddle Horse to be shown, exhibited, or sold at auction with (1) an “action device,” or (2) “a weighted shoe, pad, wedge, hoof band or other device or material” if it is constructed to artificially alter the gait of the horse and is not strictly protective or therapeutic.  There is no such prohibition in current law.  This new prohibition would not apply to other breeds.  Other breeds could continue to use such devices while showing subject to the current overriding requirement that any devices not actually sore the horse.

The bill defines an “action device” as any boot, collar, chain, roller, or other device that encircles or is placed upon the lower extremity of the leg of a horse in such a manner that it can rotate around the leg or slide up and down the leg, so as to cause friction, or strike the hoof, coronet band, fetlock joint, or pastern of the horse.

The bill would end the horse industry’s ability to self-police with industry-selected inspectors by creating a new licensing process requiring the U.S. Department Agriculture (USDA) to appoint inspectors for shows, auctions and other HPA-regulated venues that seek to hire an inspector.  The decision to hire an inspector, however, would still be up to the show, sale or auction.  In addition, the definition of event management would be expanded to include “sponsoring organizations” and “event managers” making them potentially liable for HPA violations.  These changes would apply to all shows regulated under the HPA.

The bill would increase the maximum fine for violations from $3,000 to $5,000 and the maximum prison sentence from one year to three years.  Individuals with three or more violations could receive a lifetime ban or “disqualification” from participating in shows, exhibitions, or auctions.  These changes would be applicable to all breeds.

Under the bill any horse found to be sore could be suspended for 180 days for the first offense, one year for the second, and three years for the third.  This applies to all breeds subject to the HPA.

The Bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.