In the January 13, 2017 issue of USA Today, everyone who loves horses and cares what happens to them was heartened to see this headline: “USDA Announces Strict Changes to End Soring of Tennessee Walking Horses.” The struggle to end the torture of soring horses has lasted so long. It was hard to believe this horror had gone. Only a few days later, on January 24, 2017, a blog written by Wayne Pacelle started this way: “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s anti-horse-soring rule–put in motion after a damning 2010 Inspector General’s report identified deficiencies in the execution of the federal law against horse soring —is in peril despite the agency announcing final, favorable action on the issue just days ago.” (Italics mine.)
Mr. Pacelle, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Humane Society of the United States, whose telling title for his blog entry is “Bureaucratic Bungling, Rules Freeze Endanger Horse Soring Rule,” explains that the bungling happened at the Federal Register. This venerable, historical publication failed in its duty to publish the new USDA rule about soring when it should have been published. The new rule foundered in a move by President Trump to freeze any rule actions still moving forward. Now in line with procedure, the USDA was forced to withdraw this action. As Mr. Pacelle assesses the effect of this move, he concludes that “Horse abusers are getting a ‘get out of jail free card’ because of an ironic and potentially fatal one-two punch by the outgoing and incoming administrations.”
The new law would update the Horse Protection Law to prohibit all soring devices. The Agriculture Department Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would take on the responsibility of training and licensing horse inspectors. The new trainers would now be only veterinarians and veterinarian educators. This change in the law would also eliminate one of the worst practices of the past: often inspectors would be employees of horse organization with vested interests and also might be exhibitors as well.