It has become apparent that our Congress is letting infighting, power struggles, and big money lobbyists interfere with its duty to pass laws. Because of the lack of action on the Prevention All Soring Tactics bill, PAST Act, despite the overwhelming support of cosponsors, is Tennessee Walking Horse abuse condoned by Congress? It would appear so. The legislators seem to care more about their personal agendas than protecting animals. As they continue to stall, the Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horse, TWH, continues to be sored and the show goes on – sort of.
Because of the campaign by numerous organizations, including Clant Seay founder of the Citizens Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty and publisher of the Billygoboy blog, the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS, and many other organizations, have effectively been educating the public about the plight of the TWH, completing investigations, and protesting at horse shows that feature Big Lick classes. There is also more and more people, both fans of the TWH and people and organizations that care about and want the abuse to stop, boycotting those shows and advocating for passage of legislation, the PAST Act, that would end the torture of TWHs and other breeds of gaited horses. In fact, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, TWHBEA, has lost thousands of members and new horse registrations are at an all time low as a result of its staunch support of the Big Lick horse and its lobbying efforts against the PAST Act, and its other efforts to continue soring and maintain the huge income they have come to enjoy because of that cruelty.
Since Congress cannot get past its power struggle, the Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS, has proposed an amendment to the Rules and Regulations governing the Horse Protection Act that would, among other changes, ban stacks, chains and other actions devices from being used on horses. The amendment was posted on July 26, 2016 and is open for comments until September 26, 2016. The agency will consider all comments received before finalizing, revising, or scrapping the amendment. To date, there have been 1,340 comments, both for and against, on the Rules and Regulation link listed above. In addition to online comments, a hearing was been held in Murfreesboro, TN on August 9, 2016, that resulted in standing room only. Other hearings are scheduled in Kentucky, Maryland and California in the coming weeks.
What can you do? You can go to the APHIS website and comment in support of the Rule change, you can attend hearings at the specified locations, you can ask your representative in Congress to support and push to pass the PAST Act if they do not already do so, and you can help educate those who have no idea what is happening to the Big Lick horses.
I will complete one more article in this series that will allow you to hear from professionals in the Big Lick industry with firsthand experience in the soring and abuse that goes on, and the result of the HSUS underground investigation in a Big Lick training barn. I will also outline the anger that the Big Lickers have exhibited, and those who have been arrested for animal cruelty and even assault as a result.