Tireless workers to bring about the abolition of soring horses found recently that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has withdrawn from its website invaluable information for those who are fighting against horse soring. The following information was removed two weeks into the new administration. Researchers can no longer look at inspection and violation information, reports of animal research labs, enforcement action, and information about owners and trainers, information with a direct impact on the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act. The USDA responded to the protests by saying that it was also removing “certain personal information,” an ambiguous statement. The bad news continued. Where they were formerly able to access information immediately so that their work to protect horses could proceed smoothly, HSUS workers now found that every time they want facts, they have to submit requests through the Freedom of Information Act; this is a notoriously slow procedure, instead of instant information, information in months or years. Previously, researchers could look up information about 9000 places where horses are found.
At this point, every reader must be saying as they read this, why is this happening? Karen E. Lange of the Humane Society writes, ” it may have been partially the result of a lawsuit filed in 2016 by Tennessee walking horse owners in Texas, who alleged the USDA was violating due process and privacy rights by posting inspection and violation records online.” How much does the Contender Farms lawsuit’s legal action have to do with the USDA’s review of its posting this information?
There are also indications of several other political tie-ins as Lange describes in her article in the May/June 2017 HSUS magazine, “All Animals.”
One particularly hurtful effect of all this was that the horse soring bill that put teeth in the Horse Protection Act was nearly finalized when the Obama administration was over. If it had only been published in the Federal Register! That rule which would have done so much to help horses, is, at present, without an assured future.
Meanwhile, two horse protection bills remain, waiting to be reintroduced. They are the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, a ban on horse slaughter in the United States and abroad, and the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act which would make illegal the abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses.
And the recalcitrant USDA has unbent enough to release some reports and limited inspection information but only for “small subsets of licensed and registered facilities….” And the crowning blow is that the records for many horse trainers are still hidden.