Walking Horse Groups Take Their Arguments to Congress

by Paul C. Barton as published at WBIR.com

“Current laws against Soring are not adequately enforced, and they need to be…”

Effects of Horse SoringWASHINGTON — Legislation to further protect performance horses against practices that artificially increase their gait comes before the House Wednesday for what is expected to be an emotionally charged hearing.

The subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will consider arguments on HR 1518, the Prevent all Soring Tactics bill.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., has 216 cosponsors, including one from the Tennessee congressional delegation, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis.

A Senate version offered by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has 26 cosponsors. Tennessee Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are not sponsoring the legislation.

Soring – inflicting pain on a walking horse to make it more high-stepping – is already prohibited by the Horse Protection Act of 1970.

Whitfield’s bill, however, would enhance the Department of Agriculture’s inspection and enforcement capabilities at horse shows and specifically outlaw the use of special pads on hoofs and chains on lower legs to make a horse raise its limbs higher.

Animal-rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, contend such “action devices” often rub on areas made sore with blistering agents to inflict additional pain and achieve their purpose. Many involved in the walking horse industry say the charge lacks scientific evidence.

The fact that only one member of the state’s congressional delegation is cosponsoring the bill angers Marty Irby, past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’Association.

“I’m tremendously disappointed but not surprised,” Irby said, adding that many horse owners who want to preserve the status quo are politically connected to the delegation.

Irby said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, has told him she will oppose the bill and offer an alternative. Blackburn’s office did not respond by deadline to requests for comment.

As for the other delegation members, “They won’t give you a straight answer,” Irby said.

Opponents of the bill, including the Performance Show Horse Association, contend it is the proponents who are utilizing political connections. They point out that Connie Harriman-Whitfield, wife of the Kentucky congressman sponsoring the bill in the House, is a policy adviser to the Humane Society.

The Humane Society “has an agenda to eliminate the Tennessee walking horse as a breed,” said Jeffrey Howard, board member of the Performance Show Horse Association.

Tennessee congressional members who did address the bill offered differing views.

“We all want to protect horses, and if the industry is smart it will clean itself up. Current laws against Soring are not adequately enforced, and they need to be. If enforcement doesn’t improve, Congress should take additional steps,” said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper, questioned aspects of the bill that would increase powers of the Agriculture Department.

“Certainly there must be sufficient measures in place to protect the welfare of these animals,” DesJarlais said. “However the answer is not to simply expand federal bureaucracy and allow the USDA to inconsistently police an industry where there is less than 2 percent of a problem. We all must strive to end the practice of soring, and I believe the sport’s 98-plus percent compliance rate over the past several years indicates positive movement towards that goal.”

Alexander’s office said the senior senator “is concerned that a few bad actors threaten the treasured Tennessee Walking Horse tradition.”

Alexander is reviewing the legislation and wants to examine expert testimony from the House hearing as well, his office said.

Corker’s office said, “We look forward to reviewing the legislation and testimony from Wednesday’s hearing in the House.”

Federal appeals court temporarily halts horse slaughter for human consumption

Source: Fox News.com

“With today’s court ruling and the very real prospect of plants resuming barbaric killing of horses for their meat in the states, we expect the American public to recognize the urgency of the situation and to demand that Congress take action,”

horse-meatA federal appeals court has temporarily put the brakes on plans to resume horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S., after a New Mexico judge last week dismissed a push by animal rights groups to stop the practice.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Monday issued a temporary injunction barring the Department of Agriculture from inspecting the plants.

Slaughterhouses in New Mexico and Missouri had hoped to start up as soon as this week after the federal judge in Albuquerque on Friday threw out a lawsuit by The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups.

Their lawsuit alleged the Agriculture Department failed to conduct proper environmental studies when it issued permits to the slaughterhouses. The groups filed an immediate appeal and won the emergency injunction.

The practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption was legal and fairly common in the United States for many years.

In 2005, Congress voted to withhold funding for USDA inspections of horse meat. It was a way to stop the slaughters because meat for human consumption at the time had to be inspected.

However, the USDA gave the OK for slaughterhouses to pay for their own inspections. Congress voted to end the practice in 2007.

The measure to stop the slaughters lapsed in 2011 and now U.S. companies are clamoring to get back into the game.

Across the country, businesses have been applying for permits with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They want to ship horse meat to countries where it is eaten by humans or used as animal feed.

Retail purchase of horse meat for human consumption in the U.S. is not yet approved but the possibility could be coming.

The Humane Society had pledged after the New Mexico judge’s decision that it would “not only appeal the decision, but also work with the states to block the plants from opening in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico and step up its efforts in Congress to stop the slaughter of American horses.”

“With today’s court ruling and the very real prospect of plants resuming barbaric killing of horses for their meat in the states, we expect the American public to recognize the urgency of the situation and to demand that Congress take action,” Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle said in a statement last week. “Court fights and state legislative battles have been important, but this is an issue of national importance and scale, and Congress should have an up-or-down vote on the subject.”…CONTINUED

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story and to comment at Fox News

Reward Offered in Shooting Deaths of Central Oregon Wild Horses

Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition, The U.S Forest Service, Crook County Sheriff

The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the shooting this month of six wild horses in the Big Prairie Summit region of the Ochoco National Forest in Crook County, Ore.

600_wild_horses_090819The Case: The U.S. Forest Service gives the following account:  On or about Oct. 13, hunters discovered two wild horses who had been shot and killed in the Big Prairie Summit region in the eastern portion of the Ochoco National Forest in central Oregon. They also found a third horse, a juvenile, badly injured from gunshot wounds. The third horse was euthanized. On Oct. 18, Forest Service investigators combed the scene and found three more horses shot and killed.

The HSUS reward offer of $5,000 is in addition to $2,000 being offered by the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition, a nonprofit group established to protect and preserve the wild horses of central Oregon.

The shooting deaths of six wild horses in the spring of 2011 remain unsolved, despite an outstanding $4,000 reward offer.

Animal Cruelty: Getting the serious attention of law enforcement, prosecutors and the community in cases involving allegations of cruelty to animals is an essential step in protecting the community. The connection between animal cruelty and human violence is well documented. Studies show a correlation between animal cruelty and all manner of other crimes, from narcotics and firearms violations to battery and sexual assault.

“Wild horses roaming free on our public lands are a national treasure to be cherished and protected,” said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “Shooting these majestic creatures is not only an act of depraved cruelty, but also a serious criminal offense. We applaud the U.S. Forest Service and the Crook County Sheriff for taking these crimes seriously, and for their dedication in working to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The Investigators: The U.S. Forest Service and Crook County Sheriff are investigating. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Capt. Dan Smith, U.S. Forest Service, (541)383-5798; or the Crook County Sheriff’s Office, (541)447-6398.

Resources: The HSUS Animal Cruelty Campaign raises public awareness and educates communities about the connection between animal cruelty and human violence while providing a variety of resources to law enforcement agencies, social work professionals, educators, legislators and families. The HSUS offers rewards in animal cruelty cases across the country and works to strengthen laws against animal cruelty. To see information on statistics, trends, laws and animal cruelty categories, go to humanesociety.org.

Congress “has potential to end soring forever”

Source: HorseTalk.co.nz

“To compromise would not free the Tennessee walking horse from this bondage forever…”

Keith DaneLegislation before Congress aimed at toughening measures around soring could end the cruel practice forever, the immediate past-president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association says.

Marty Irby was commenting on the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, currently before the House and Senate.

He said he fully supported the legislative push to toughen regulations around soring – the deliberate infliction of pain to horses’ legs and hooves to force them to perform an artificially high-stepping gait.

“Our United States Senators and Congressmen can virtually eliminate the cruel practice of soring and utilizing pads and chains, which is nothing short of slavery, by passing this amendment,” he said.

“To compromise would not free the Tennessee walking horse from this bondage forever. I stand firm and strong in my conviction, and I believe this is what it will take for the Tennessee walking horse to become the largest equine breed on Earth.”

Irby was commenting as the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was coming to a close, and as the Humane Society of the United States has introduced a grants system that it hoped would encourage a sound and versatile future for competitive Tennessee walking horses.

Although the federal Horse Protection Act was enacted in 1970, it has been difficult to enforce and persistently flouted by a small but determined faction of the horse industry. As a result, soring has continued unabated.

The PAST Act will end walking horse industry self-policing, ban the use of certain devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all those involved in soring.

The measure has broad bipartisan support, with 140 co-sponsors in the House. The Senate bill was introduced just before the August recess.

Keith Dane, the director of equine protection for the humane society, said: “We believe the Tennessee walking horse industry can realize a sound future by recognizing some of its new leaders: owners and riders who appreciate the versatility, temperament and athleticism of this magnificent breed.”

Dane said the bill before Congress to toughen anti-soring measures would be an integral part of this push.

“When every aspect of soring abuse is eradicated by this important federal legislation, the horses and their caring owners will truly be able to shine.”…CONTINUED

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story and to comment at HorseTalk

Horse Slaughter Compounds Surplus Equine Problem, Doesn’t Solve It

Source: by Holly Gann as published in the Alamogordo Daily News

Horse slaughter is a cause of, not a solution to, any surplus of horses in this country. The option to send horses to slaughter perpetuates overbreeding of horses, and more than 100,000 horses are sentenced to die yearly in slaughterhouses.

Former show horses, family pets and racers are purchased at auction, often by people misrepresenting their intentions. Slaughter actually hinders rescue efforts, as rescuers are routinely outbid by kill buyers seeking healthy animals bringing the best price per pound.

We have found that so-called unwanted horses, if rescued from the slaughter pipeline and given a second chance, go on to win shows, ride trails and provide joy to people. Slaughter supporters wish to dismiss the role horses play in our society and detach us from our emotions for them as our companions.

But they can’t shake the majority of Americans’ belief that these loyal, noble creatures deserve better than a cruel death in a slaughterhouse.

Horses deserve our protection, and the solution we seek is a ban on the slaughter of American horses, not only in the U.S. but throughout North America. The Safeguard American Food Exports Act (H.R.1094/S.541) will do just that.

Click (HERE) to comment at the Daily News

NM Horse Slaughter Wanna-Be Plays Arson Card

Source: Multiple

“They tried to burn the place down…”

Rick De Los Santos, owner of Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, stands in the slaughterhouse where he plans to butcher horses for the foreign meat market. (PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL)

Rick De Los Santos, owner of Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, stands in the slaughterhouse where he plans to butcher horses for the foreign meat market. (PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. • Arsonists set fire to the southeastern New Mexico company that planned to resume domestic horse slaughter next week, the company’s owner said Tuesday.

“They tried to burn the place down,” Valley Meat Co. owner Rick De Los Santo said Tuesday in reference to opponents who have been making threats against the company over the past year as it has fought the federal government for permission to convert its cattle operations into a horse slaughterhouse.

Chaves County officials told the Roswell Daily Record they are investigating what they characterized as a “very suspicious” blaze.

Sheriff Rob Coon did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday, but in the past, he has expressed concern about potential trouble at the Roswell plant.

Attempts by companies like Valley Meat Co. to resume domestic horse slaughter have ignited an emotional national debate that has resulted in a string of threats against De Los Santos, his family and his business.

“We have had some say, ‘I hope your building burns down,’” De Los Santos said. “That’s not good at all. What are they going to do next? Take a pot shot at us when we are walking in?”

On Saturday, De Los Santos said someone apparently jumped the fence, then poured accelerant over the compressors to his refrigeration unit. A passer-by alerted authorities.

“The fire inspector was out there,” De Los Santos said. “He took samples of the dirt and stuff just to make sure. But he said this was something that was not done by electricity or lightning. He said something was poured on it to light it.”

De Los Santos says the company will be unable to open as planned Monday without a working refrigeration unit.

The company also goes to federal court Friday to fight attempts by The Humane Society of the United States and other groups to block the opening of Valley Meat and another recently approved horse slaughterhouse in Iowa.

Animal Welfare Group Sponsors Alternative Tennessee Horse Show

Source: By Tim Ghianni of KFGO.com

The alternative show this weekend does not include the controversial “Big Lick”

Tennessee Walking Horse SoringNASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) – An animal welfare group fiercely opposed to what it calls cruel treatment of famed Tennessee Walking Horses is backing an alternative show that does not judge horses on the high-stepping gait they say is a result of an abusive practice.

The Humane Society said it contributed the maximum $1,000 to the World Versatility Show under way through Saturday in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to highlight a better way to train and show the horses known for their exaggerated steps.

The owners and trainers of Tennessee Walking Horses, a popular breed in the American South, have been criticized for decades over a practice called “soring” – slathering the lower legs with caustic chemicals to induce pain that causes the horse to step higher. While chemical soring is officially banned, it is suspected that some trainers still use it.

In 2011, the Humane Society produced an undercover video of a celebrated walking horse trainer, Jackie McConnell, abusing horses at his stable. The video, broadcast on ABC television last year, showed the animals being beaten with sticks and poked with electric cattle prods. It also exposed that soring was used in their training.

McConnell, 61, pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges this month, and was banned from owning and training horses for 20 years. He also was fined $25,000 and sentenced to a year’s house arrest and four years probation.

Eight horses were removed from McConnell’s training barn and are being kept at an undisclosed location, authorities said.

The alternative show this weekend does not include the controversial “Big Lick,” an artificial movement in which the horses raise their forelegs up and forward.

The Big Lick is produced by “padding” a horse with thick front horseshoes that animal rights groups say are abusive. The alternative show will restrict the horses to light shoes, or barefoot without shoes, and the animals are judged by natural talent in events such as jumping, reining and driving.

If a horse can perform the Big Lick naturally, it is allowed at the alternative show.

“We do want to help the Tennessee Walking Horse to be the horse of the future and move away from the reliance of abusive training practices and devices that the breed has been associated with,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States.

The Humane Society, along with other animal welfare groups, has been aggressive in recent years in exposing cruelty to animals. They have used controversial undercover operations to expose abusive farming practices at chicken, beef and pork facilities. Some Midwestern state legislatures have banned undercover operations at agricultural facilities.

The alternative show is taking place one month before the prestigious 75th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, where the Big Lick will be performed.

Mike Inman, chief executive of the National Celebration, said the event does not condone soring, but allows the use of thick shoes.

“The difference in equipment and shoeing accentuate the natural ability of the athlete, it doesn’t provide the ability,” he said.

Mike Dunavant, Fayette County district attorney general, who prosecuted trainer McConnell, praised the alternative show as highlighting better practices.

“(It) promotes people who engage in the humane treatment and training of Tennessee Walking Horses,” he said.

Click (HERE) to comment at KFGO directly

Letter to Editor Questions Horse Slaughter Plant in Iowa

Source: The Toledo Chronicle

“The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise…”

Frozen foam could be seen overflowing a water-holding tank on Feb. 18 at Cavel International, a horse-slaughtering plant in DeKalb. Chronicle file photo CURTIS CLEGG

Frozen foam could be seen overflowing a water-holding tank  at Cavel International, a horse-slaughtering plant in DeKalb, before they were shut down. Chronicle file photo CURTIS CLEGG

Iowa has become ground zero in the national debate on horse slaughter, now that the USDA has cleared a horse slaughter plant to begin butchering horses here. Not only will our state earn the disdain of 80 percent of Americans who disapprove of horse slaughter, but Iowans will have a front-row seat to animal suffering and environmental degradation.

It happened in Kaufman, Texas, where horses were slaughtered until 2007. The plant flooded the local water supply with blood, the stench of dead horses permeated the air, and economies suffered. Slaughtering horses in Iowa could also tarnish our agricultural reputation-we would be contributing tainted meat to the food supply and risking the co-mingling of horsemeat in beef products, which happened in Europe. As animals raised for work and show, but not food, horses are given a variety of drugs that makes their meat unfit for human consumption.

The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. It doesn’t ‘euthanize’ old and sick horses, but snatches up those that bring the best price per pound. It’s bad for horses, bad for communities and bad for human health. It should be outlawed, and Congress is considering legislation to do just that. Urge your legislators to support the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, S. 541/H.R. 1094.

Carol Griglione, Iowa state director for The Humane Society of the United States

Click (HERE) to Comment at the Toledo Chronicle

New Interior Secretary Can Turn Around Broken Wild Horse Program

Source: A Humane Nation ~ Wayne Pacelle‘s Blog

“…the situation unfolding at Palomino Valley is yet another symptom of a broken horse and burro program…”

"Why", the question asked at Palomino Valley ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“Why”, the question asked at Palomino Valley ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Those of you who regularly watch our good friend Jane Velez-Mitchell’s show on HLN may have seen me last night in a brief segment talking about a potentially dangerous situation for 1,800 captive wild horses at a Bureau of Land Management facility near Reno, Nev., where temperatures have been reaching record highs exceeding 100 degrees this month. Despite the fact that the BLM requires those adopting wild horses from the agency to provide adequate shelter, there is no shelter for the horses at the Palomino Valley National Adoption Center. Our request is hardly unprecedented, since the BLM has installed shelters at other facilities, like the one in Ridgecrest, CA.

After several wild horse advocates brought this matter to our attention, we wrote a letter to the BLM, urging the agency to develop a shelter to provide some protection from the sun at the Palomino Valley National Adoption Center. Thus far, the BLM has installed a sprinkler system, but no shelter. Newly confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell can take action to show she’s serious about reform of this program.

While an important welfare issue for the horses, the situation unfolding at Palomino Valley is yet another symptom of a broken horse and burro program. The central problem is that the BLM continues to round up and remove thousands of wild horses and to aggregate more horses than it can responsibly care for at short-term and long-term holding facilities, all at an enormous expense to taxpayers and to horses, and in defiance of the spirit of the federal law designed to protect them.

We have only about 40,000 wild horses and burros living on our public lands today, but we have almost 50,000 in holding facilities. This is not what the drafters of the original Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act could ever have imagined, and the BLM knows that it’s removing more animals from the range than the agency can possibly hope to adopt out to loving homes – yet the round up and removal treadmill persists. This is the larger problem that Secretary Jewell confronts.

The only way the BLM will ever right the sinking ship that has become its Wild Horse & Burro Program is by immediately implementing the recommendations of a report prepared by the National Academies of Sciences’ National Research Council panel which, among its key findings, urged the agency to end its reliance on short-sighted roundups, and instead, to keep horses on the range while humanely limiting reproduction through the application of a contraceptive vaccine. And just recently, The HSUS also developed and presented a proposal to the agency for a bold new program that meets the challenges of the budget, the horse population and land-use issues head on.

We are ready to work with the BLM to address its continuing troubles in this area and to solve them for the long term. But in the meantime, the BLM needs to do right by the animals in its care and the best place to start is by providing the 1,800 wild horses at PVC with the shelter they so desperately need.

Horse Trainer Sentenced to House Arrest, $25K fine

Source: Multiple

Under the plea agreement, McConnell — who faced 22 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty — is not to own or train horses for 20 years.

 Jackie McConnell MEMPHIS, Tenn.  — A Collierville horse trainer who pleaded guilty to 12 counts of animal cruelty has been sentenced to house arrest for a year and fined $25,000.

According to The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/1blvyWE ), Circuit Judge Weber McGraw sentenced Jackie McConnell and two co-defendants on Tuesday. McConnell is also on probation for four years.

McConnell pleaded guilty in federal court last year after the Humane Society of the United States in 2011 secretly filmed video inside a training stable showing caustic substances being applied to Tennessee walking horses‘ legs and hooves, and the animals being beaten to make them stand.

Jeff Dockery, also of Collierville, pleaded guilty to all three counts of animal cruelty and John K. Mays of Holly Springs, Miss., pleaded guilty to four of 14 counts of cruelty.

Dockery was sentenced to three years’ probation and Mays was given four years’ probation.

Under the plea agreement, McConnell — who faced 22 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty — is not to own or train horses for 20 years.

In May, Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill that would require images that document animal abuse be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours, saying his main concern is its constitutionality.

A number of groups and celebrities have spoken out against the proposal that has been dubbed the “ag gag” bill. They say the measure is designed to prevent whistleblowers from collecting evidence of ongoing patterns of abuse.