Days before the commencement of the 2012 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, the Humane Society of the United States is launching a national tip line in English and Spanish "to help crack down on the illegal and cruel practice known as 'soring.'” The HSUS offers a reward of up to $10,000 to anyone who provides any information leading to the arrest and conviction of a violator of the Horse Protection Act or any state law which prohibits horse soring, the deliberate infliction of pain to force horses to perform an artificially high-stepping gait for the show ring.
The tip line and reward are advertised on a new billboard that was installed across from the Celebration venue. Many of the trainers and judges participating in this month’s Celebration have records of soring violations, it was stated.
“It is unacceptable that the deliberate torture of Tennessee walking horses continues despite a decades-old federal law to stop it,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States urges anyone with information about this despicable cruelty to call our new tip line. With the cooperation of concerned witnesses, we can help bring violators to justice and rid the industry of the abuse that mars its reputation.”
HSUS officials said, "As awareness spreads about the abusive treatment of Tennessee Walking Horses in the top levels of show competition, The HSUS is continuing its commitment to help bring violators to justice. Earlier this year, The HSUS paid out a $10,000 reward for information that led to the arrest and conviction of Barney Davis, a Tennessee horse trainer, for violations of the Horse Protection Act. Davis testified during his sentencing hearing that soring is a common practice.
"Anyone with information on this cruel practice should call 855-NO-SORING or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The HSUS will protect the identity of all callers.
"Although Congress passed the Horse Protection Act more than 40 years ago to criminalize showing sored horses and other horse abuse, these illegal activities continue unabated throughout the industry.
"The HSUS’ undercover investigation of well-known trainer Jackie McConnell revealed that trainers can continue to sore horses and enter them into shows undetected, even while serving a federal disqualification. The investigation drew national attention and led to public outrage over the practice of soring. McConnell has since pleaded guilty to a felony conviction for charges related to conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act, and three of his associates pleaded guilty to related charges.
At last year’s Celebration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted random testing for the use of prohibited foreign substances on horses and found that a shocking 100 percent of those horses tested positive.
"An analysis of the violation history of the top 20 trainers in the industry’s Riders Cup high point program found that every trainer on that list was cited for violations of the Horse Protection Act in the past two years, with a total 164 violations among them. A mere 7 percent actually served suspension penalties?and of those, all but a handful were for a measly two-week period.
"The HSUS has contacted the board of directors for the Celebration in an effort to help the industry institute reforms that will protect the horses and restore its credibility. The HSUS is calling for some common-sense changes, including ousting those who torment animals from the show ring, establishing a zero-tolerance policy for this criminal behavior, and adopting practices and policies that will secure a place in the future for fair, humane and legal competition for this breed.
"In June, the USDA announced a requirement that certified horse industry organizations impose uniform mandatory minimum penalties for violations of the federal Horse Protection Act. These organizations operate under USDA oversight to enforce the Horse Protection Act by conducting inspections at Tennessee Walking Horse competitions. The organization that has been hired to conduct inspections at the 2012 Celebration has refused to comply with these new regulations."