USDA proposes amendments to Horse Protection Act

August 23, 2016

The proposal would strengthen anti-soring regulations and bring them in line with existing U.S. Equestrian Federation standards.

Photo courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States.The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has proposed amending the 1970 Horse Protection Act in order to better protect horses from soring, a practice in which horses are subjected to chemical irritants and mechanical devices to exaggerate their natural gate for shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions, a release from the agency states.

APHIS's proposal would modify the Horse Protection Act in two main ways, bringing it into alignment with current U.S. Equestrian Federation standards:

  • Current: Horse industry organizations train, license and screen all horse inspectors. According to the USDA release, a 2010 audit by the Office of Inspector General found that several industry-trained inspectors have conflicts of interest.

  • Proposed: The USDA would take over training, licensing and screening horse inspectors, who would be independent veterinarians or animal health technicians with no horse industry affiliations. These inspectors would be licensed and overseen by the USDA.

  • Current: Regulations prohibit the act of applying chemical irritants to a horse's legs, though lubricants provided by show management may sometimes be used.

  • Proposed: All foreign substances would be prohibited, including lubricants. The USDA also seeks to prohibit all action devices, such as boots and collars placed on a horse's lower legs, as well as all pads, which are stacked and placed between the hoof and shoe.

Congressman and longtime large animal veterinarian Ted S. Yoho, DVM (R-Florida), praised the announcement on his website, as it means the USDA is implementing portions of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, a bill that has not passed Congress but is widely supported by veterinarians and humane organizations.

“While the practice of horse soring is shrinking to a small number of entrenched loyalists,” Yoho says in his statement, “there is no reason for its methods to remain in use. The industry and people who abuse horses for show had 40 years to phase out their ways. We are long overdue in stopping horse soring and [the] announcement by the USDA is a welcomed step in the direction of making these abuses a thing of the past.”