Today, we recognize legislative efforts by the Humane Society of the United States.
By Marty Irby, senior director of Rural Outreach and Equine Protection for The Humane Society of the United States.
There are thousands of organizations working to protect horses—from local rescuers to state councils to national advocacy groups. But many equestrians might be surprised to know how much The Humane Society of the United States does to help horses on a broad, diverse scale.
Along with our affiliates, we investigate cases of horse abuse, rescue horses in dire situations, adopt horses into loving new homes, provide lifetime sanctuary at state-of-the-art facilities, litigate in state and federal courts for enforcement of laws that protect horses, and work nationwide to increase awareness of issues affecting horses in America today. We employ a diverse staff to accomplish all of our equine work, including veterinarians, lobbyists, trainers, investigators, rescuers, campaign strategists, lawyers and writers.
Over the past decade in particular, we have made great strides toward protecting horses—both wild and domestic—from abuse, neglect and slaughter. But we still have a lot of work to do, so we are working with Congress and federal regulators for stronger laws and regulations protecting horses.
Our legislative work is focused on three federal bills: one to prevent the soring of Tennessee walking horses, the second to end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption, and the third to institute drug policy reform within the horse racing industry. These bills impact horses in varied sectors of the equine industry and cumulatively will protect hundreds of thousands of horses.
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R.3268/S.1121, will put an end to the practice of soring, which is the use of caustic chemicals and other devices to inflict pain on horses’ legs and hooves to produce an exaggerated high-stepping gait. Soring of Tennessee walking horses has been going on for decades, and the Horse Protection Act passed in 1970 was meant to prevent it. However, trainers have found ways to get around the law against this practice, and when they are caught, the anemic penalties do little to slow them down.
To expose the cruelty to the world, The HSUS has conducted two undercover investigations documenting top industry training operations abusing horses to achieve the “Big Lick” gait and gain an unfair competitive advantage in the show ring. The PAST Act will clean up the walking horse industry and eradicate soring by eliminating industry self-policing, banning the stacks and chains used in the soring process, and increasing penalties for violators of the law.
The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R.1942/S.1214, is a crucial federal bill to stop the slaughter of American horses. Through litigation and provisions in an annual federal spending bill, The HSUS and our partners have been successful in preventing horse slaughter plants from opening on U.S. soil since they were shuttered in 2007. But the SAFE Act is needed to protect the more than 100,000 American horses who are sent to Canada and Mexico each year to be butchered for their meat and consumed in foreign countries.
As fight-or-flight animals, horses suffer severe injuries during long-distance transport and are difficult to effectively render unconscious in a single attempt at the slaughterhouse. This makes slaughter a horrific and inhumane end for horses, regardless of where it occurs. It’s also unnecessary, as there are many other humane options for horses, and the USDA determined that 92.3 percent of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition and could live productive lives if given the opportunity. The SAFE Act would end this suffering by prohibiting horse slaughter plants from opening in the U.S. for good, as well as outlawing the transport of horses abroad for slaughter.
To improve the welfare of racehorses, The HSUS has partnered with key groups in the industry like The Jockey Club, Breeder’s Cup and the Water, Hay, Oats Alliance to back the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act, H.R.3084. This legislation is a federal response to the tragic breakdowns on America’s horse-racing tracks, which too often are turning into crash sites. It would put the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an independent, third-party organization, in charge of setting the rules regarding the same-day medicating of horses and would establish a national uniform set of rules – instead of the patchwork of 38 racing jurisdictions with the current authority to do so. Having one set of rules for everyone to follow and prohibiting injury-masking or performance-enhancing drugs for horses on race day will make the sport safer for the horses and jockeys.
About Marty: Marty Irby is the Senior Director of Rural Outreach and Equine Protection for The HSUS. In his role as director, Irby oversees the day-to-day operations of both the Rural Outreach and Equine departments. He serves as an advocate against factory farming, working with family farmers through the HSUS State Agriculture Council program, and works to raise awareness of abusive practices and affect positive change for equines and farm animals.
Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.