English | Español
Latest News

USDA collecting public comment on proposed rule aiming to end inhumane horse soring practices

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
The Humane Society of the United States released undercover video footage on May 25, 2012 revealing cruel treatment of horses in the Tennessee walking horse industry. The subject of the investigation, nationally known trainer Jackie McConnell, notified the federal court in Tennessee that he intends to plead guilty to felony conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act. The video, shot over several weeks in 2011 at Whitter Stables, operated by McConnell, shows individuals abusing horses by using painful chemicals on the horses’ front legs to force them to perform an artificially high-stepping gait for show competitions. This cruel practice, known as “soring,” has been illegal for more than 40 years under the federal Horse Protection Act. The footage also shows horses being brutally whipped, kicked, shocked in the face, and violently cracked across the heads and legs with heavy wooden sticks. The investigator documented the cruel practice of “stewarding”—training a horse not to react to pain during official show inspections of their legs for soreness, by striking them in the head when they flinch during mock inspections in the training barn. The investigation also uncovered the illegal use of numbing agents for the purpose of temporarily masking a horse’s reaction to pain so it can pass official horse show inspections.

The Humane Society of the United States released undercover video footage on May 25, 2012 revealing cruel treatment of horses in the Tennessee walking horse industry. (Photo courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States) 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed changes to the 1970 Horse Protection Act to “end inhumane practices known as soring, which causes horses to suffer physical pain, distress, inflammation, or lameness while walking and moving.”

The changes would give the USDA more direct control over the policing process to help completely end the inhumane practice, according to the rule.

“Soring is when they take the horses and put chemicals on their legs and wrap plastic around them so they burn,” said U.S. Humane Society District 8 Leader Volunteer Peri Gallucci of Chelan. “The horses are forced to stand, and they’ll put chains on them.”

Horses are often left for days, and the abuse forces horses to lift their front legs unnaturally high in the show ring, known as the “Big Lick” gait, Gallucci said.

The 1970 Horse Protection Act struggled to put an end to the abuse because of the lack of oversight in the industry, Gallucci added.

Leigh Ann McCollum, Tennessee director of the Humane Society greets a horse during an investigation of animal cruelty at the stables of well-known Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell in Fayette County, Tenn. The undercover investigation led to felony criminal indictments against McConnell, for multiple violations of the federal Horse Protection Act. Evidence was found of soring, the application of painful chemicals, and heavy metal chains applied to the horses front legs.  Photo by Lance Murphey

Leigh Ann McCollum, Tennessee director of the Humane Society greets a horse during an investigation of animal cruelty at stables where an undercover investigation led to felony criminal indictments for horse soring. (Photo by Lance Murphey, courtesy of Humane Society  of the United States)

“It was supposed to stop all this abuse, but it’s a self-policing industry,” Gallucci said. “The USDA rule will add training through the USDA, and they will also help regulate the industry. Another important part is this rule would not raise anyone’s taxes in order to do this.”

The USDA is asking for public comment on the proposed rule in order to move forward, with a deadline of September 26, 2016 for all comments. To provide feedback, visit the public comments page for the proposed rule.

“A lot of people don’t want to see, know or hear about issues like this, but it still happens whether you acknowledge it or not,” Gallucci said. “At this point in time it’s a turning point in history where people can participate and help protect the animals by sending a quick email.”

Gallucci said comments can also be sent to federal legislatures including Congressman Dave Reichert, Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray.

For more information on the proposed Horse Protection Act rule, visit www.humanesociety.org/hparule or email Peri Gallucci at perigallucci@gmail.com.

A Humane Society employee pets a horse in its stable during an animal cruelty investigation by law enforcement officials and the Humane Society at the stables of well-known Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell in Fayette County, Tenn. The undercover investigation led to felony criminal indictments against McConnell, for multiple violations of the federal Horse Protection Act. Evidence was found of soring, the application of painful chemicals, and heavy metal chains applied to the horses front legs.  Photo by Lance Murphey

A Humane Society employee pets a horse in its stable during an animal cruelty investigation by law enforcement officials and the Humane Society at the stables of well-known Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell in Fayette County, Tenn. The undercover investigation led to felony criminal indictments against McConnell, for multiple violations of the federal Horse Protection Act. Evidence was found of soring, the application of painful chemicals, and heavy metal chains applied to the horses front legs. (Photo by Lance Murphey, courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States)

 

(By Kaitlin Hetterscheidt)

Shares

Comments

comments

Leave a comment

Shares
Share This