Horse soring restrictions on hold amid freeze on new rules

The Humane Society of the United States says this photo documents horse soring at ThorSport Farm in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A new rule designed to further prevent the abusive practice of horse-soring is on hold. It was completed in the final days of the Obama administration, but never pushed through. On President Donald Trump's first day in office, the White House decided that all unpublished rules would be withdrawn and sent back to the relevant agency for review.

Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States, wrote, "Horse abusers are getting a 'get out of jail free card' because of an ironic and potentially fatal one-two punch by the outgoing and incoming administrations."

USA Today reported that the new rule is among dozens of proposed rules that were frozen by the Trump administration. That doesn't mean the ban is dead—the new administration could still revive it.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, the Office of the Federal Register failed to publish the rule in a timely manner after the USDA announced the new policy on January 13th. It's unclear why the former administration waited so long to make the changes permanent.

On it's website, the Humane Society of the United States posted, "The USDA had posted on its website the text of a final rule well in advance of Inauguration Day for the new president. But for some unexplained reason, the Federal Register delayed the publication of the rule. That language was not given the required one-day-early advance posting on the Federal Register until the day before Inauguration Day, and the Federal Register was closed on Inauguration Day."

On the Federal Register website, the following note is posted stating that USDA's Animal and Plant Healthy Inspection Service withdrew the document, "APHIS requested the withdrawal of this document after it was on public inspection. It will remain on public inspection until the close of business on January 24. A copy of the withdrawal request is available at the Office of the Federal Register."

Soring is the intentional infliction of pain on the hooves and limbs of Tennessee walking horses and racking horses to create a pain-based high step action, a gait known as the "Big Lick."

The updated version of the Horse Protection Act strengthened regulations to end the cruel practice by eliminating the industry's self-policing system and banning large stacked shoes, ankle chains, caustic chemicals and other devices.

The rule would also force inspectors to become trained and licensed through the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) released the following statement in mid January after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finalized the.

“I am in favor of wiping out the contemptible and illegal practice of horse soring, not wiping out the century old tradition of showing Tennessee Walking Horses as this rule could do. I and other members of Congress introduced legislation last Congress that would end horse soring. I would hope the new Secretary of Agriculture will not concur with this overreaching rule announced during the last few days of the Obama administration and instead will work with Congress to enact legislation that punishes trainers, owners and riders who abuse horses while preserving the opportunity for law abiding horse enthusiasts to participate in competitions that are the basis of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.”