U.S. House Passes Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act in a Landslide, with 333 Votes to Stop Cruelty
by David Turner, Marty Irby and Katherine Rizzo

Late last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Senator Joseph D. Tydings Memorial Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act by a vote of 333 to 96.  The measure seeks to strengthen the 1970 Horse Protection Act. It would end the torturous practice of soring Tennessee Walking, Racking and Spotted Saddle Horses. The intentional infliction of pain to horses’ front limbs by applying caustic chemicals such as mustard oil or kerosene or inserting sharp objects into the horses’ hooves to create an exaggerated gait known as the “Big Lick” or “soring” has plagued the equine world for 60 years.

The use of such chemicals, as well as the method of “grinding” became illegal under the original Horse Protection Act of 1970. “Horse soring still runs rampant even though laws have been on the books for decades banning this cruel practice,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR). “We gave folks a chance to self-police, but the abusive behaviors continued. The bill that passed the House of Representatives today will improve federal Department of Agriculture enforcement, increase civil and criminal penalties, and ban ankle chains and huge hoof ‘packages’ weighing up to 15 lbs. This is a historic day.”

HT 693 looks to further ban the use of chains and stacks in training and showing horses. The new bill further makes violations a felony and increases penalties with longer jail time and suspension. Enforcement will be done through USDA with horse show management continuing to pay the costs of inspectors while USDA trains, assigns and manages these inspectors.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Maryland Representative Steny Hoyer took leading roles to ensure the bill was not tied up in house committee considerations.  One hundred Republicans and all Democratic members voted in a landslide for the PAST Act.

All Maryland members of the House voted in favor of the PAST Act except Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), who previously had shown support. The Equiery has reached out to Rep. Harris for a statement.

Passage Built on Sympathy for the Late Maryland Senator Joseph Tydings

One factor in the huge vote was the renaming of the PAST ACT in honor of beloved Maryland U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings. He had led the original effort to stop soring with the 1970 bill.  As a retired attorney, he was playing a key role in getting the new legislation through Congress. The Senator recently died, but the bill’s new name honored his role in one of the horse world’s longest fights against cruel training practices.

“My granddad would be so thrilled the PAST Act passed the House by such an overwhelming margin,” said Ben Tydings Smith, grandson of the late Senator Joseph D. Tydings.  “He cared so deeply for these horses and I know he is probably looking down with a big smile on his face.  On behalf of the Tydings family here in Maryland, I thank all the sponsors, cosponsors, and Members of the House who voted to end soring and cement grandad’s legacy.”

The bill is supported by Animal Wellness Action, the American Horse Council, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, United States Equestrian Federation, National Sheriff’s Association, and Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association.  The Maryland Horse Council was an early supporter of the new legislation.

The PAST Act has been blocked for years by a handful of well-placed lawmakers,” says Marty Irby of the Animal Wellness Action group.  Next it goes to the Senate, where it faces opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the public recipient of considerable campaign funding from the “big lick” Walking Horse trainers’ lobby.