The Horse Protection Act (HPA) is a federal law that prohibits horses which have been the subject of a practice called "soring" participating in shows, sales, exhibitions and auctions, and from being transported to or from any of these events. "Soring" involves the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s legs or hooves in order to force the horse to perform with an artificial and more exaggerated gait. The wound is created using chemicals, cuts or foreign objects, and the practice is particularly common in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Even though the law was enacted in 1970, the practice is still common in the gaited horse industry.
"The ASPCA is dedicated to improving the lives of horses across the country and we will continue to speak out against the illegal practice of horse soring. Soring is a particularly cruel form of abuse as the horses are forced to endure years of chronic pain throughout their show careers while the USDA does little to enforce existing laws," says Sherry Rout, Legislative Liaison for the ASPCA.
The law is supposed to be enforced by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), but various animal welfare organizations do not believe the law is being enforced adequately. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States, American Horse Protection Association, Friends of Sound Horses and former U.S. Sen. Joseph Tydings have teamed up to ask APHIS to strengthen its enforcement of the law. The petition lodged by the group wants APHIS to permanently disqualify horse owners and horses that are involved in soring from competition, and to put in place a mandatory enforcement protocol. Any non-compliant horse inspection group would lose their certification by the USDA.