National TV ad campaign seeks backing for anti-soring bill

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“In my opinion the only real way to outlaw this cruel sadistic practice; is not to have shows like the ‘Big Lick. After all, it’s the prize money most are after, do they really care about the horrific injuries & burns, they inflict on the horses?”

Urge Congress to End Horse Soring

Published on 17 Mar 2014

New TV ad campaign by The Humane Society of the United States calls on federal lawmakers to support H.R. 1518/S. 1406, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act.

A national television advertising campaign backed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is the latest strategy in promoting a federal bill aimed at toughening regulations and penalties around the illegal practice of soring horses.

The advertisement is pushing for the passage of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 1518/S. 1406.

It urges viewers to call their federal lawmakers and ask them to pass the bill.

It began airing in Kentucky on Sunday, urging viewers to call Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and ask them to support the PAST Act.

The ad campaign would expand to other media markets around the country in the coming weeks, the HSUS said.

The commercial is the latest effort by the HSUS to urge Congress to pass the bill against soring – the illegal practice of inflicting pain to horses’ legs and feet to force them to perform an exaggerated high-stepping gait known as the Big Lick.

The Senate bill has been introduced by their Republican colleague, Kelly Ayotte, of New Hampshire, and it has 51 cosponsors. The House bill has 268 cosponsors.

The bill will fortify an existing federal law, the Horse Protection Act, which was passed in 1970 to eliminate the abuse of Tennessee walking horses and other similar breeds.

The HSUS says the bill is so weak that cheating and violations have been rampant for decades. The PAST Act would end the failed industry self-policing system; ban the show-ring use of chains, stacks, and excessively heavy shoes (devices that used in the soring process); and increase penalties for violators.

Kentucky is the heart of horse country in the US, and Senators McConnell and Paul should support this critical legislation to protect horses from the cruelty of soring,” said Pam Rogers, Kentucky state director for the HSUS.

“No other breeds are subjected to this kind of intentional form of torture, and it is a disgrace that it exists anywhere.

“Only an upgrade of the federal law will put an end to the horrible horse abuse that still plagues the ‘Big Lick’ show world.”

The PAST Act is endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association (and every other state veterinary medical association), the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and the American Horse Council, along with a host of other national animal protection, veterinary, and horse industry organizations.

In 2011, an HSUS investigation into Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s stable in Collierville, Tennessee, revealed shocking cruelty to horses to a national audience, which led to the introduction of the PAST Act.

The investigator recorded horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face and intentionally burned with caustic chemicals. The new commercial shows footage from this investigation.

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AgGag Casts Doubt On Bill Requiring Quick Turnover of Animal Abuse Photos To Police

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Tennessee’s proposed “Ag Gag” law suffered a setback Thursday when the state’s attorney general labeled it “constitutionally suspect” and said it could violate freedom of the press and the right against self-incrimination.

The bill, awaiting either Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature or veto, would force anyone who purposefully took pictures or video of livestock abuse to turn those over to law enforcement within 48 hours.

That limits the media, incriminates those who captured the video through trespassing and exposes police to copyright problems should the public ask for copies, Attorney General Robert Cooper wrote.

Haslam has until Wednesday to either sign or veto the bill, his spokesman confirmed, but the governor’s office offered no further comment. If he took no action at all, it would pass into law automatically, with those who broke it facing a $50 fine.

The bill’s author, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, said he didn’t see a constitutional problem and compared its provisions to forcing medical doctors to report suspected child abuse.

A hog farmer and relentless critic of the Humane Society of the United States, Holt said the only reason someone would want to videotape animal abuse and hang onto it would be for profit.

“If people are engaged in criminal activity, it will be abundantly apparent.  “No it will not” You don’t have to have two months to provide clarity to law enforcement,” Holt said. “Ask yourself this question: Should an animal have to suffer an abusive situation for two months?” “Those animals will suffer whether being videod or not, if they are already in an abusive situation; often the management don’t know their animals are being abused. To ensure a conviction, evidence has to be collected over a period of time, so people can’t say it was a “one off” act of violence…FFS people…open your eyes. Those who want Ag-Gag laws must want them for a reason!!”

A two-month undercover investigation by the Humane Society led to state and federal animal abuse charges last year against famed Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Jackie McConnell of Collierville. The group released stomach-turning video of McConnell beating a horse and of its legs being chemically burned to encourage the breed’s prized longer, higher gait.

Holt said his bill has nothing to do with that case. Instead, it would prevent video of legitimate animal husbandry being represented as inhumane and used for fund raising, he said.

Humane Society leaders held a news conference earlier Thursday at Gaylord Opryland Convention Center, where the group is holding its Animal Care Expo. They denounced Holt’s bill and called upon the Tennessee attorney general’s office to investigate the walking horse industry.

A letter from the group to Cooper cites a 76 percent positive rate on U.S. Department of Agriculture tests for foreign substances on horses’ legs at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration last year in Shelbyville.

“We need to know what perversion looks like and not be a part of any activity to either celebrate it, encourage it or somehow honor it,” said Dr. Michael Blackwell, president of the online Humane Society University.

Mike Inman, the Celebration’s CEO, didn’t respond to messages left Thursday but has said that walking horse trainers found McConnell’s actions deplorable. He said the industry is striving for 100 percent compliance with the federal Horse Protection Act.

Written by Heidi Hall The Tennessean

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Animal-Death Profiteering State Lawmaker Suggests Animal Rights Activists Are Like Rapists

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“What a fxxxxxg dick head!”

A Tennessee lawmaker sponsoring a new bill shutting down animal cruelty investigations suggested animal rights activists were engaging in “tape and rape” tactics, and were “intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women.

” The representative in question, Andy Holt (R-Dresden), owns and operates a facility that raises pigs, cows, and goats for slaughter.

Holt’s outburst came in response to an email from Humane Society Public Policy

Andy Holt – suggested animal rights activists were engaging in “tape and rape” tactics

Coordinator Kayci McCloud, in which McCloud asked Holt to reconsider his support for Tennessee’s recently passed “ag-gag” law. Ag-gag laws contain a variety of provisions (varying from law to law) designed to make it impossible for undercover investigators to document animal cruelty or unsafe farming conditions on farms like Holt’s. “Well he obviously has something to hide!”

The Tennessee law Holt sponsored and pushed through the legislature accomplishes this end by forcing groups to turn over any documentary evidence of illegal activity on farms to the authorities within 48 hours, making it functionally impossible for them to put together a comprehensive case that could lead to arrests.

Holt responded viciously to McCloud’s inquiry, accusing the Humane Society of America — the country’s leading animal welfare organization, whose investigations have repeatedly led to pro-animal prosecutions and legislation — of functionally supporting the sexual abuse of animals:

I am extremely pleased that we were able to pass HB 1191 [the ag-gag law] today to help protect livestock in Tennessee from suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists, who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women. You work for a pathetic excuse for an organization and a pathetic group of sensationalists who seek to profit from animal abuse. I am glad, as an aside, that we have limited your preferred fund-raising methods here in the state of Tennessee; a method that I refer to as “tape and rape.” Best wishes for the failure of your organization and it’s [sic] true intent.

Holt’s outburst is unusual for reasons beyond the vicious smears: while ag-gag supporters typically sell the laws as a means to help animal rights investigations, Holt admits that the law’s true purpose is to limit the ability of pro-animal groups to expose cruelty. It’s also unclear how “suffering months of needless investigation,” which mostly means being videotaped, is worse for farm animals than being crammed into crates so tight that they are forced to stand in their own feces and acquire bleeding sores from attempting to move even slightly — a common fate for pigs in American factory farms.

In addition to his work in the state legislature, Holt owns and operates Holt Family Farms with his wife. Because Holt’s operation raises animals for slaughter (though they are not killed on premises), it’s exactly the sort of farm that might be subject to the type of investigation Holt is attempting to outlaw.

Human Society President Wayne Pacelle describes Holt Family Farms as an “industrial hog” farm. Holt, who recently took a vacation to Hawaii paid for by the American Farm Bureau Federation, is taking a lead role in the effort to legalize horse meat production in Tennessee.

Tennessee, which is ahead of the national curve with respect passing ag-gag laws, is also in the midst of a controversy about the endemic abuse of horses as part of the Tennessee Walking Horse show “tradition.

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ASPCA Endorses New Legislation to Prohibit Cruel Practice of Horse Soring

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NEW YORK, SEPT. 13, 2012 — H.R. 6388 strengthens Horse Protection Act to better protect horses

The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today applauds Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Steve Cohen (D-TN) for introducing legislation to amend the federal Horse Protection Act of 1970 to eradicate the abusive practice of horse soring. H.R. 6388 will enhance the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s (USDA) ability to enforce the Horse Protection Act by eliminating self-policing inspection practices, increasing penalties, and designating additional soring practices illegal.

Currently illegal under the Horse Protection Act, soring involves using painful chemicals and devices to inflict pain in horses to compel an exaggerated show-ring gait so desirable in the multimillion-dollar Tennessee Walking Horse industry.

Soring is a particularly cruel form of abuse as the horses are forced to endure years of chronic pain throughout their show career,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “The Horse Protection Act was specifically enacted in 1970 to prohibit this abhorrent practice, and yet it continues to pervade the gaited horse industry four decades later. We thank Representatives Whitfield, Cohen, Schakowsky, and Moran for introducing legislation to protect these gentle animals and bring an end to horse soring.”

“Far too often, those involved in showing the Tennessee Walking Horse have turned a blind eye to abusive trainers, or when they do take action, the penalties are so minor, it does nothing to prevent these barbaric acts,” said. Rep. Whitfield.  “This amendment does not cost the federal government any additional money and is essential in helping to put an end to the practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses by abusive trainers.

“In Tennessee, soring horses is illegal and unacceptable,” said Rep. Cohen. “Those responsible for abusing these horses should be punished severely and banned from the sport.  How we treat animals is a direct reflection of our character, both as individuals and a nation.   There is no ribbon, no prize nor championship worth the price of one’s humanity.”

The training method known as “soring” involves the deliberate application of pain-causing chemicals, cuts or foreign objects to a horse’s limbs or hoof pads to cause such agony to the animal’s front limbs that any contact with the ground forces the horse to fling its leg back up into the air.  Additionally, trainers may attempt to mask soring by “stewarding” Tennessee Walking Horses, which conditions the horses to remain still by beating, torturing or burning them.

In 2010, the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of the horse protection program, finding that trainers in the industry often go to great lengths to evade detection rather than comply with federal law and train their horses using humane methods. The OIG made several recommendations, including stiffer penalties and abolishing the self-policing practices currently allowed, where the Horse Industry Organizations are able to assign their own inspectors to horse shows. 

H.R. 6388 will eliminate the current self-policing practices by requiring the USDA to assign a licensed inspector to a horse show. Second, it will prohibit the use of action devices on the various horse breeds that have frequently been the victims of soring.  Action devices, such as chains that rub up and down an already sore leg, intensify the horse’s pain when it moves, so that the horse quickly jolts up its leg.  Lastly, the amendment increases the penalties on an individual caught soring a horse.

For more information about the ASPCA’s efforts to protect horses and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit

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“It doesn’t matter how many times I watch this video, it always makes me cry! To purposely inflict pain on an animal,  just to win a prize is sickening; its legal abuse, just like rodeos! Why hasn’t it been stopped before now, they know it’s still happening, the majority of punters know it happens…but it all boils down to money, & when animals are involved, it is they, who always pay the highest price! Corrupt judges, vets, trainers, handlers…from the top down, their all in on it…they are nothing but sad, evil greedy bxxxxxd’s!! (excuse my French).

“My horse went lame over the weekend…my daughter brought back video of her…I haven’t stopped crying since viewing it! Watching her try to walk on 3 legs, bless, she must have been in agony…it was bloody heartbreaking to see; I felt so useless not being able to get to her due to my usual pain! Anyhow, vet thinks she pulled her stifle muscle, so she is on box rest with medication for pain & swelling, which is gradually getting better daily…got vets bill yesterday… £328…I knew it would be high because it was an emergency call out, but it’s not about the money, as long as she will soon feel better & be back to her old cantankerous way’s…I don’t care how much it will cost! 

“That’s what you do when you love your animals, I would sell the clothes off my back if need be, to pay for further treatment for her! Yet some turds in this industry purposely torture their horses, so they step higher, out of pain… just for a bloody rosette or tin cup!! They shouldn’t be anywhere near horses, or other animals for that matter…because they clearly don’t give 2 tits about them or their welfare, their only in it for the money they will make, out of the animals they abuse! So don’t ever believe them when they say ‘Oh, I just love my horse, he’s the best’… because their bloody lying!” 


Published on 17 May 2012 by 

The Humane Society of the United States released undercover video on Thursday, May 17, 2012, of a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer in Middle Tennessee abusing the animals in order to accentuate their well-known high leg kick.

Federal oversight needed to address cruel, corrupt treatment of horses

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“A well presented article…it’s just a shame people have forgotten what horses have done for our Countries. The world would be a very different place, had horses not played such a big role in it’s development! Yet some see fit to treat these magnificent intelligent beast’s, like they were nothing more than vermin, to dispose of once they’ve been outgrown or no longer bring home money!

My horses are my life… apart from this blog 🙂   

Horses hold an iconic place in our nation’s history. Without Paul Revere’s trusty steed, Brown Betty, the colonists in New England might have never known of the British forces’ late night advance toward Lexington. As American settlers moved west to the Pacific, horses pulled covered wagons and plowed fields on new homesteads. Horses accompanied many of our military commanders into battle, and horses still carry our fallen soldiers to their final resting places at Arlington National Cemetery.

Horses have been our companions and helped make this country what it is today.
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to our nation’s relationship with horses. America’s admiration for horses’ natural magnificence is the foundation of numerous industries, yet many of the horses used in these enterprises are treated poorly. Two sporting industries plagued by this inconsistency are the Tennessee Walking Horse show circuit and the world of horse racing.

Tennessee Walking Horse shows are too often gaudy pageants that mask a deeply entrenched subculture of abuse. The Tennessee Walking Horse is a breed long-admired for its unique gait and gentle disposition. Unfortunately, these same traits have motivated unscrupulous trainers to practice what is known as “soring” — the infliction of extreme pain on the horses’ feet by using caustic chemicals and painful devices to elicit an exaggerated version of the horse’s natural walk. This gait, known as “the big lick,” is prized at certain horse shows and draws handsome stud fees for champion horses.

The sport of horse racing has also been overtaken by rampant cruelties inflicted for the sake of financial gain. Once referred to as “the sport of kings,” horse racing is now subject to widespread drugging of racehorses. “Doping” is the practice of administering drugs to horses in order to give them a competitive advantage when racing. According to an investigative report in The New York Times earlier this year, “trainers experiment with anything that might give them an edge, including chemicals that bulk up pigs and cattle before slaughter, cobra venom, Viagra, blood doping agents, stimulants and cancer drugs.” Doping is extremely dangerous to the horses and the jockeys who ride them because it masks warning signs of injuries and can cause horses to push beyond their limits. Devastating human and animal injuries and deaths have occurred as a result.

While the decentralized horse-racing industry has long promised to end this abuse, industry oversight has proved ineffective.

Lax enforcement allows violators to evade sanctions or receive mere slaps on the wrist as penalties. Inconsistent rules among various state commissions create a “race to the bottom” environment where individuals can avoid stricter sanctions by simply taking their operations to states with more lenient or non-existent regulations.

Horses are our companions, our partners in sport and a living reminder of the American spirit. We owe it to them to acknowledge this special bond and to give them the humane treatment they deserve.

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Tennessee Walking Horse trainer pleads guilty to abuse

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“All horse owners know that this happens, so I don’t know why its taken so long to prosecute the abusers; well I can take an educated guess, money makes people look the other way, if you get my drift??”

A high profile Tennessee Walking Horse trainer — who was shown abusing his horses in undercover footage broadcast on ABC News — has pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Horse Protection Act (HPA).

For ref.

The video was filmed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and shows Jackie McConnell beating the horses with wooden sticks and poking them with electric cattle prods.

Mr McConnell admitted to applying banned chemicals to the horses’ pasterns making them hyper-sensitive, causing them to raise their front legs artificially high — a practice known as “soring”.

He also admitted to trying to camouflage the signs of this practice, which has been illegal for more than 40 years.

Two other men — John Mays and Joseph Abernathy — pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges related to the case, with Mr McConnell on 22 May. Sentencing will be held on 10 September.

“Although the HPA has been in place for more than 40 years, violators have seldom been prosecuted,” said the HSUS’s Keith Dane.

“The McConnell case urges the federal government to continue to make the enforcement of the HPA a top priority.”

The trainer has also been banned for life from the biggest annual event for the breed — the Walking Horse National Celebration (22 August – 1 September). 

Pepsi drops sponsorship of horse show after video of animal abuse

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“What a shame Coca-Cola can’t do a similar kind act & stop sponsoring Rodeo’s that kill & maim animals.!”

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) – Soft drink maker Pepsi said on Thursday that it was dropping sponsorship of a prestigious national horse show, one day after ABC News broadcast footage of a horse in training for a show being beaten by a trainer.

The Walking Horse National Celebration said that Pepsi had been a sponsor since 2010 of the nation’s leading competition for Tennessee Walking Horses, a breed known for its high-stepping gait.

“We have ended our sponsorship of the event,” Pepsi spokesman Vincent Bozek said on Thursday without elaborating.

Neither Pepsi nor officials of the horse show would confirm the reason for the cancellation of the sponsorship. But an expert on the Tennessee Walking Horse show circuit, who asked not to be identified, said he believed it was because of the ABC News report, which showed an abusive practice known as “soring.”

The Humane Society of the United States conducted an undercover investigation and filmed the video which was given to ABC News and broadcast, said Keith Dane, the society’s director of equine protection.

An animal rights activist went to work in a horse barn and secretly taped the abuse in March and April, 2011. It shows the horses being beaten with wooden sticks and poked with electric cattle prods. The horses’ ankles were slathered with caustic chemicals and ankles wrapped with plastic to amplify the pain.

The chemicals induce pain and cause the horse to raise its front legs high while in the show ring.

Soring has been such a pervasive practice among Tennessee Walking Horse trainers that in 2009 the industry set up an organization and hired veterinarians to tour shows and inspect the horses.

Dr. Stephen Mullins, president of SHOW, the organization that inspects the horses, said he was disgusted by the video.

“For any animal to be abused like that … I totally disagree with that,” Mullins said.

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Exclusive Video -Tennessee Walking Horse Investigation Exposes Cruelty

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“I have known what they do to these horses for a long time, being in the equine business.  Soring to me, is despicable, in which ever form it takes. It is the most heinous, deliberate form of causing direct pain to a horse; just to win a bloody prize.  If you are ever at one of these show’s & see a rider & horse disappear out of the ring, away from the suspect eyes of a vet; you can be sure they were up to no good!!

“The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is working with the industry to enforce the law, but it’s not always that easy! As is the norm, with human greed & competitiveness, some have found ways to make the ‘Running Walk’, which the horse is most popular for, even better; by causing deliberate pain!”

“There are 2 main category’s of competition, ‘The Flat- Shod’ horse, where the rules do not allow the use of chains or pads. They are judged on their natural ability to perform a high step, along with a good head, the amount of over stride of the back legs, also defines a good walker. And ‘The Performance’ category, is where the abuse is rife.   There are 2 common action devices allowed which are chains & pads on the horses front legs.” 

“The rules state that chains, worn around the front pasterns, should not weigh more than 6 oz, & should be used with a lubricant to slide easily. Pads, or stacks (the things that look like the horse is wearing built up boots) are added under the normal hoof, no more than 4″ in the heel & no more than 2″ in the toe.  Used as intended is shouldn’t cause pain to the horse, the problem is, they rarely are!”

 “Just as heavier chains can hurt, so can pads. If worn too long, the band that holds the pads in place, could cut into the hoof wall. Throwing a stack of pads off wouldn’t hurt the horse, but if a stack of pads is thrown off including  the shoe, the band which holds them on, could tear off part of the hoof wall.”

 “Owners/trainers are become ever more clever at concealing their abuse, to those put in place to protect the horse i.e. vets.  Some will teach the horse, through fear & severe punishment, not to react to pain, when a vet or other qualified person, presses on the lower legs; often called ‘stewarding’.  Others will use topical anesthetics that will work whilst the horses are being checked, but will wear off once in the ring.  Others will use timed chemicals that will not show up to the vet but will be in effect once in the ring, causing sever pain!

“There are other forms of soring, are not as well-known to the public, as the caustic applications are. One of which, is when the hoof is trimmed back to the quick, so that the hoof is in direct contact with the pad or shoe. Nails, beads & screws can be put under the pad or shoe to cause more pressure. The horse is ridden on a road or concrete surface until the horses hooves are so sore, it has the desired effect, the horse is then in effect “road foundered.”

“Some will even resort to sticking tacks, pins etc. into the white line of the hoof causing deliberate & immediate pain.  The horse reacts,  similar to what we would,  if we stepped on a tack. But the horse can’t stop, therefore each time the foot is placed down the immediate reaction is to lift it back up high again, hopping from one to the other. Imagine how painful that is!”

 “Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good trainers out there, who are getting bad press due to those who do abuse. I have a friend, who trains & show’s TWH, she is appalled at what some will do. But she knows the abuse won’t stop immediately, because there will always be humans willing to abuse & cause horrific pain to a horse or any other animal just for their own self-importance & gratification.” They will always be one step ahead of those trying to end these acts of abuse. In my opinion, it won’t stop until they put a stop to ‘The Performance’ category!”

Published on 16 May 2012 by 

An HSUS undercover investigation into the walking horse industry finds rampant cruelty. Warning: Contains Graphic Footage.

Undercover Horse Abuse Video Exposes Shocking Cruelty

An HSUS undercover investigation at a training barn for Tennessee Walking horses led to state and federal criminal charges against nationally known trainer Jackie McConnell and some of his associates. The group was charged with felony conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act as well as numerous violations of the Tennessee Cruelty to Animals Statute after being videotaped using caustic chemicals on the front legs of horses in order to cause pain, resulting in the artificially produced high-stepping gait that wins prizes in the show ring.

This cruel practice is called “soring” and has been illegal for more than 40 years under the federal Horse Protection Act. The HSUS undercover video shows horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face, and violently cracked across their skulls and legs with heavy wooden sticks during and after soring of their front legs. Unless the Horse Protection Act is upgraded to include stronger penalties for this type of horrendous abuse and to end the failed system of industry self-policing, inhumane trainers will continue to torture horses.

Please make a brief, polite phone call to your U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators urging them to fix the problems in the Horse Protection Act. Look up your federal legislators’ phone numbers here. You can say: “I am a constituent and I urge you to upgrade penalties in the Horse Protection Act and require more meaningful enforcement by USDA to end the abusive and common practice of soring Tennessee Walking horses.”

Then, use the form below to send a follow-up note. Be sure to edit your message so that it stands out.

Click here for the petition letter:

This action alert is for U.S. residents only. International advocates, please visit Humane Society International for ways you can take action for animals.

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