Congress on Vacation
Although it is officially on the U.S. Congressional Calendar as “District Work Week” (House) or “State Work Period” (Senate), everyone around the Washington, D.C. Beltway knows that it means Congress is on summer vacation. Washington gets really, really quiet this time of the year…
So what DID our fearless federal leaders accomplish before they left for vacation? The talking head pundits will always say, “very little.” But we in the equestrian community want to specifically know if they did anything that is going to affect our horse world. Well, according to the American Horse Council, they did do a few things – one regarding trail funding and the other regarding the intentional soring of horses. Read on! (Congress will reconvene mid-September.)
Recreational Trails Program in Senate Highway Bill
On July 30, the Senate passed its version of a multi-year national highway bill, called the DRIVE Act. The bill would reauthorize the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program (RTP).
An amendment by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) was filed that would have eliminated the Transportation Alternatives Program, which includes the Recreational Trails Program. However, this amendment was not considered and the RTP program will continue un- changed if this bill becomes law.
Grassroots support from recreational trail users, including equestrians played an important role in making sure RTP was included in the Senate-passed bill. The AHC appreciates all the individual horsemen and organizations that contacted their Senators in support of RTP.
Since its inception RTP has provided money for thousands of state and local trail projects across the country, including many that benefit equestrians. RTP provides funding directly to the states for recreational trails and trail-related facilities for all recreational trail users. It is funded with a portion of the gas taxes paid into the Highway Trust Fund by recreational off-highway vehicle users.
For now, because of disagreements over funding a multi-year highway bill, the House of Representatives is unlikely to consider the Senate Passed DRIVE Act.
In the meantime the Congress has passed a 3-month extension of the current highway bill, which includes the RTP program.
Soring: PAST Act Introduced in the House
On July 28, 2015, Representatives Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) re-introduced the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act of 2015 (HR 3268) (PAST Act) in the House of Representatives. The PAST Act is supported by the American Horse Council (AHC) and almost all major national horse show organizations and many state and local horse organizations. The Senate version of the bill was introduced by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA) earlier this year.
The PAST Act would strengthen the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and end the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses, and Racking Horses. Despite the existence of a federal ban on soring for over forty years, this cruel practice continues in the “performance” or “big lick” segments of the Walking Horse industry.
“As a veterinarian and lover of animals, I feel the time is now to stop the practice of horse soring for good. I am not the only one who feels this way. Roughly 280 plus organizations, associations, veterinary and animal health advocates, horse industry professionals, and various other groups, support the ending of this unnecessary practice. Also the Senate companion bill, introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte, currently has the support of 41 Senators,” said Representative Ted S. Yoho (R-FL).
“The Walking Horse industry has had since 1970 to reform their ways and come up with a more ethical means to achieve their desired goal. They have failed to take advantage of this opportunity and now is the time for horse soring to end,” continued Yoho.
“Soring is a cruel and inhumane practice and, despite being illegal for more than 45 years, it remains far too prevalent in the walking horse community. We must end the industry’s failed self-policing of this abuse, ban the use of soring devices, strengthen penalties and make other reforms needed to end this malicious practice. I’m proud to partner with my colleague and fellow veterinarian Representative Yoho on this bill to strengthen the Horse Protection Act in an effort stop to this heinous abuse of American horses once and for all,” said Representative Kurt Schrader.
“Ending soring is important for the welfare of Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses, and Racking Horses,” said AHC president Jay Hickey. “But, it is also important for the economic health of the horse industry because, while soring happens only in a small segment of the Tennessee Walking Horse, Spotted Saddle Horse, and Racking Horse industry, such abuse damages the image of the entire horse industry.”
Most major national horse show organizations support the PAST Act, including the American Horse Council, the American Quarter Horse Association, the U.S. Equestrian Federation, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Paint Horse Association, the American Morgan Horse Association, the Pinto Horse Association of America, the Arabian Horse Association, the American Saddlebred Horse Association, the United Professional Horsemen’s Association, the Appaloosa Horse Club, as well as many state and local horse organizations.
“The bill was introduced with the support of 108 original co-sponsors, 54 Republicans and 54 Democrats, very few bills in Congress ever achieve this level of bi-partisan support,” said Hickey. “The magnitude of support for this bill is clear, but there is still a lot of work that will need to be done to make sure it is brought to a vote.”
The AHC urges all members of the horse community to contact their Senators and Representative and tell them “the PAST Act should be given a vote as soon as possible and they should vote for it, when that happens.
The AHC says individuals who wish to support the PAST Act can visit www.horsecouncil.org to find out more information or support the AHC’s efforts by joining the AHC.