UPDATE: Representatives Herrera Beutler, Mike Thompson, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Paul Tonko, Adam Smith and Hakeem Jeffries have now signed on to PAST.
It took the promise of 76 trombones to catch people’s attention in River City, but in Washington, D.C., today, two veterinarians, supported by a significant bi-partisan coalition, numbering more than 100 members of the House of Representatives, have reintroduced the PAST Act to this congressional session. It is a move that is sweet music to the people who support the initiative.
The House Bill number is HR 3268. The American Horse Council broke the news that the bill is now active and alive on the Hill. Representatives Yoho ( R-FL) and Schrader ( D-OR), both veterinarians, are leading the march to end soring using the power of federal legislation to end decades of industry non-compliance and shilly-shallying over empty promises of making meaningful change.
PAST’s sole purpose is to amend the existing Horse Protection Act by removing so-called performance packages, action devices, and heavy shoes whose only purpose is to exaggerate gait, while contributing to soring endemic in three breeds, walking, racking and spotted saddle horses. Noted horseman Monty Roberts who has had direct experience with the big lick horse and is a supporter of PAST said in a statement, “Soring is one of the most despicable training methods I have ever come across in my lifetime of protecting horses. It’s incredible to me that an industry based on the intentional infliction of pain to an animal could still exist in America. Congress should finally bring an end to this blatant cruelty and pass the PAST Act without delay.”
Earlier in the year, also in a bipartisan effort, currently with 43 senators in support, companion legislation was introduced in the Senate ( S.1121). It is apparent that the drive to amend the federal Horse Protection Act is not going away. It is supported by the AVMA, the AAEP, the AHC, the USEF, the veterinary medical societies of all 50 states, and the HSUS, but, just as importantly, it is being worked for by a growing number of advocates from all across the United States while the effort is being watched by an international audience.
As an example, a recent Change.org petition was successful in presenting information regarding the dubious intents of the Veterinary Advisory Committee, paid for and sponsored by The Celebration, but officially “not associated” with the show (even though its results are used by The Celebration in determining who will not get prize money if caught out by the “independent group” , led by industry friendly, since 2006, Dr. Jerry Johnson) to the respected Hagyard-Davidson-McGee Equine Institute of Kentucky. The response to the information provided by the All American Walking Horse Alliance and the comments of signers to the petition caused Dr. Robert Hunt, who had been announced by The Celebration as part of the VAC effort, to withdraw.
According to the clinic, they had been led to believe that their involvement was to help the big lick horse component find a way to abolish action devices. Upon withdrawing from the program, Hagyard also announced that it was fully in support of the PAST Act.
Now, another Change.org petition is asking similar questions about Countryside Veterinary Clinic’s involvement with the VAC through the participation of its Dr. Phillip Hammock, a member of last year’s VAC who is still on board in 2015. The answer to whether or not Dr. Hammock will continue to be part of this charade, which clearly involves, as one big lick insider wrote on a message board “ keeping our politicians secure on our side” remains to be seen.
The efforts of respected organizations, in concert with the activities of citizens working at the grass roots level, combined with the expertise of Drs. Yoho and Schrader and their outreach to their colleagues, means that this introduction of PAST, rolled out on the 29th, has more original co-sponsor support than the bill had previously.
PAST is a bill whose time has come. Both senators and representatives who can’t seem to agree on much else, do agree on this piece of legislation. PAST will continue to be worked on assertively by all concerned, no matter how long it takes to achieve the goal of passage, because it is the right thing to do in order to end the wrong things that have been happening for decades in this isolated segment of the horse world.
In close step are ordinary citizens who are already contacting senators and congressmen, participating in orderly protests against animal cruelty represented by the big lick elements at horse shows, and appealing to charities not to accept donations from cruelty masquerading as entertainment, in combination with exposing the continuing actions of industry participants themselves, leading to constant demonstrations of why this “Tennessee tradition” , as Senator Lamar Alexander continues to call it, is nothing for which the state should be proud or for the nation to be willing to tolerate. The grass roots support effort must continue to move steadily forward and that includes thanking these representatives for HR 3268.
Under Representatives Yoho and Schrader, the parade has picked up the pace. Behind the trombones come other integral parts of the band, including on introduction day, the following representatives: Republicans Barletta, Brat, Buchanan, Calvert, Chabot, Chris Collins, Cook, Costello, Crenshaw, Rodney Davis, Denham, Diaz-Balart, Donovan, Farenthold, Fitzpatrick, Flores, Forbes, Gibson, Granger, Hanna, Heck, Hudson, Hunter, Bill Johnson, Jolly, Jones, Joyce, Peter King, Lance, LaBiondo, Marino, McSally, Meadows, Meehan, Mica, Nuggent, Perry, Posey, Ribble, Roskam, Salmon, Schweikert, Chris Smith, Lamar Smith, Valadao, and Roger Williams and Democrats Cohen, Schakowsky, Adams, Beatty, Blumenauer, Brownley, Capps, Capuano, Cartwright, Clark, Connolly, Susan Davis, DeGette, DeLauro, DelBene, Deutch, Engel, Eshoo, Esty, Farr, Frankel, Gabbard, Grayson, Grijalva, Guitierrez, Alcee Hastings, Heck, Himes, Honda, Israel, Jackson Lee, Jeffries, Keating, Kildee , Kilmer, Kilpatrick, Langevin, Larsen, Levin, Lowey, Lujan, Lujan-Grisham, Sean Patrick Maloney, McCollum, McGovern, Meng, Patrick Murphy, Nolan, Norton, Pallone, Scott Peters, Pingree, Pocan, David Price, Quigley, Roybal-Allard, Sarbanes, Schiff, Sinema, Slaughter, Adam Smith, Mike Thompson, Titus, Tonko, Van Hollen, Vargas, Vela, Walz, Welch, Fredrica Wilson, and Yarmuth.
The sound heard inside the beltway isn’t just music to the ears of sound horse supporters, it’s also the sound of marching feet coming from all across America.