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Tennessee Walking Horse Abuse Condoned by Congress – Part II

— August 10, 2016

This article is a continuation of my article Tennessee Walking Horse Abuse Condoned by Congress – Part I that was published on August 8, 2016. The Tennessee Walking Horse, TWH, is a versatile gaited horse that is used for show, pulling, trailing riding, and other disciplines. The “Big Lick” TWH is the name given to the horses that are shown with stacks, pads and chains on their front hooves in what is known as performance classes. Since the 1950s, unscrupulous trainers have sored Big Lick horses to get them to life their front legs in an exaggerated manner while squatting low in the rear end.

Image courtesy of Sarah Barnett and HSUS Facebook page,
Image courtesy of Sarah Barnett and HSUS Facebook page,

Note that the photo above is a mild example.

The soring became so bad that a federal law, the Horse Protection Act, was enacted in an effort to protect the horses from this type of abuse. The Act did not protect the horses and, in fact, soring practices became even more widespread. In 2013, Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY) introduced the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act of 2013, PAST Act, with the goal of, among other changes to the Horse Protection Act, make the use of stacks, pads and other actions devices illegal.

The PAST Act had 307 cosponsors and was supported by numerous horse, veterinary, police, and attorney associations and groups and many others, it was blocked and did not make it to the floor for a vote. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) presented an alternate bill that would not remove the stacks and other action devices and would largely leave the Big Lickers, a term used to describe who support soring, to regulate enforcement of the Horse Protection Act themselves, an avenue that has already been proven to not work. That bill received only 12 cosponsors. Blackburn is a chairperson of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where Whitfield’s bill stalled out.

With the dual bills and neither side giving any leeway, Blackburn is largely responsible for the bill never making it to the floor. According to The Tennessean, Blackburn stated “”those on the other side have refused to come together and work with us in finding a solution that would eliminate bad actors. Instead, their only focus has been to simply eliminate the walking horse industry altogether.” So, rather than bring the PAST Act and the bill that she introduced to the floor, she simply stalled it out and refused to let it out of committee.

There was an alternative! Whitfield had the option of submitting a discharge petition that would effectively get the bill out of committee so that a vote could be obtained on the floor. Marty Irby, then spokesman for the Kentucky Republican, stated that “Congressman Whitfield has had ongoing discussions with all of the leadership about moving the bill forward and will pull out all stops to move the PAST Act to floor, at the appropriate time”. He also stated, according to The Tennessean, “Congressman Whitfield is considering a discharge petition but would much rather have the legislation go regular order, and allow Rep. Marsha Blackburn to offer any amendment she may have, and debate the issue on the House floor.” According to the Kentucky Journal, Whitfield stated that John Boehner, Speaker of the House, “refuses to bring the [bill] to the floor for a vote.” By the end of the 2013-2014 session, Whitfield had chosen to allow the deadline for filing a discharge petition pass and the bill died in committee. There is more to this than meets the eye, but cannot be covered in this particular article.

The PAST Act bill has been introduced in subsequent sessions and has still not made it to the floor for debate and a vote. It is being effectively blocked, even though the majority of lawmakers and the people involved with the TWH worldwide want this bill passed. My question is, how can this happen? When a majority of the people and legislators are in favor of legislation that will protect animals from abuse and ensure that they are treated humanely, how can a few prevent a vote on an issue that will surely pass and become law?

In my next article, Part III, I will let you know what is being done by the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Health Inspection Services, APHIS, to protect TWHs.


Horse Protection Act

Past Act Supporters

Blackburn Alternate Bill

The Tennessean Blackburn Quote

Kentucky Journal


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