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A bill to expand a ban on the modification of horses’ gaits received bipartisan support during a subcommittee markup Thursday.
The measure (H.R. 5441) targets horse soring — a practice that uses devices or chemicals to exaggerate the gait of horses — which is often used for entertainment, especially for Tennessee walking horses. The legislation is backed by more than half of House lawmakers.
“Horse soring is exactly what it sounds like,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s consumer protection panel, said during the markup. “It is causing pain to horses deliberately.”
The House passed the legislation in the last Congress but the Senate never took it up. Lawmakers are hoping this time will be different. The subcommittee approved the bill 22-0, sending it on to the full committee.
Sored horses were banned from participating in shows and performances in the 1970s under the Horse Protection Act. The Department of Agriculture inspector general found in 2010 that the practice still persists, according to bill sponsor Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).
The bill would increase regulations and enforcement of the HPA, including increasing inspections and penalties.
“Action devices,” such as boots or chains, used to alter horses’ gaits would also be banned.
The bill is widely supported by animal rights organizations, such as the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society Legislative Fund. Some animal-related groups have opposed past versions of the bill.
“At a time when Congress is looking to create jobs, this misguided and deceptive bill would destroy what is left of the walking horse industry and do nothing to stop cruelty,” the Cavalry Group, which advocates for animal owners, wrote about the bill from the last Congress.
The panel also approved a different bill (H.R. 3355) by voice vote to prohibit the transportation, purchase, or sale of horses for food.
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