The Humane Society of the United States and Safer Horse Racing
Valerie Pringle
Valerie Pringle, Campaign Manager for Equine Protection, The Humane Society of the United States

Stuart S. Janney III: The Humane Society of the United States has worked closely and effectively with the horse racing industry for several years. Three years ago they formed a National Horse Racing Advisory Committee or Council to promote higher animal welfare standards. Valerie Pringle is going to tell us how the society advocates for equine welfare and update us on some of their activities and initiatives. She's also going to tell us how and why the organization supports the Horse Racing Integrity Act. Valerie, welcome, and thank you for being with us.

Valerie Pringle: Thank you, Stuart. The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest and most effective animal protection organization. We take a mainstream approach to combat the most severe forms of cruelty and abuse. We work to pass local, state, and federal laws to protect animals. We also make sure that existing laws are enforced. We provide direct care, rescue, and services for animals in crisis. And I think most importantly and part of my reason for being here today is we help corporations and industries reform their animal welfare policies.

The Humane Society of the United States, just to give you a little background on who we are, we have state directors in virtually all 50 states. And we also have district leaders in most Congressional districts who have relationships with their member of Congress. They generally work at a local level. We also have a team very focused in Washington DC on federal legislation.

We have two animal sanctuaries that collectively house over 600 equines. We have programs that provide veterinary care and animal services to inner cities, primarily doing spay and neuter services. And we also have a veterinary affiliate that provides services to Native American reservations.

Just want to tell you a little bit about myself. I have loved, ridden, and trained horses my entire life. And these are the two horses that I've been fortunate enough to own. The horse on the left is a Thoroughbred named Amber. I was able to buy her from someone. She retired from being a first field fox hunter and I made her the most amazing trail horse and I also taught her the art of dressage.

The horse on the right was technically a little big for me, 18 hands, a draft cross named Braveheart. And I rescued him from an auction in Pennsylvania and he became probably the best dressage horse that I've ever ridden.

I want to tell you a little bit about our program. We have a specific department called the Equine Protection Department, and we are staffed with horse people. Judges, riders, all people who understand how important the animal-human bond is, and we understand the relationship with horses.

We really have a few general priorities. We work on a number of issues, but these are our primary ones: First, we are working on ending horse slaughter, and that's through federal legislation. I'll tell you a little bit about that bill in a minute.

We're also trying to work on eliminating a horrific training practice called soring. Again, through federal legislation.

We're working with the racing industry primarily on medication reform. We do believe that that is one of the keys to helping the industry move forward.

And we also have a coalition of 500 horse rescues all over the country. We work with them to empower them. We provide on-the-ground training, give grants, etcetera, because it's important to get horses not only into rescue, but get them adopted and out so the rescue has an opportunity to get more horses turned around.

The three federal bills I mentioned, I'll just give you a quick overview. The first one is the prevent all sorings All Soring Tactics Act, the PAST act. And you can see that someone riding a Big Lick horse, Tennessee Walking Horse. And primarily what they're doing is they're trying to create pain in the front hooves so they end up creating an artificial gait. And horses suffer 24/7 when they're involved or are victims, I should say, of this kind of abusive training. Very good news. I was able to witness, along with my boss last month, the House of Representatives passed this bill 333-96. And so now we're looking for the Senate to take action. And once that happens, we'll be able we won't have to look at this kind of horrific abuse any more.

The other bill that we're working on is the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, the SAFE Act, and it's primarily aimed at ending not only preventing slaughter houses from setting up in this country, but also preventing our American horses from being sent to Canada and Mexico.

The last domestic plant closed in 2007 largely due to our efforts. Important to know that the United States Department of Agriculture documented rampant cruelty violations and severe injuries to horses. And that was when we had horse slaughter in the United States.

If horse slaughter did reopen, inspections of horse slaughter plants would cost the United States taxpayers about five million dollars. Americans don't eat horse meet. Most Americans consider horses to be pets and we don't eat our pets. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 92.3 percent of horses sent to slaughter are sound and in good health. 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter. And horse slaughter is not humane euthanasia. A lot of people think, well, it's just the same, and I'm sure our veterinarians here note that being shot with a captive bolt or rifle is not the same as being humanely euthanized. And I want to take an opportunity to thank the National Thoroughbred Racing Association for their support of the SAFE Act.

The Horse Racing Integrity Act is something that our organization has worked on for the past several years. And I would like to go over the three reasons that we really believe that this is going to be a game-changer for an industry that we support.

First of all, it's going to ban race-day medication. If a horse has to race on drugs, we don't believe that they should be racing. It's very simple.

Number two, we think horses are going to benefit with a national rule book of medication. So when they travel intrastate and they're going from state to state, horses won't have to be subjected to different levels of legal medication and trainers won't be confused. We think like other national sports, that there should be a national rule book.

And we also support the idea of increased out-of-competition testing. I'm sure everyone in this room agrees with me that it's important that this sport stay as clean as possible and it's important to get rid of the people who are hurting the reputation of the sport.

We applaud efforts by the industry to increase protections for racehorses and are committed to working with the industry and members of the Coalition For Horse Racing Integrity on passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act. We are not one of the animal welfare crazies who are trying to shut you down. We want to work with you. We're committed to seeing this industry thrive as we help to insure the protection of racehorses. Thank you.

Stuart S. Janney III: We're proud to be working with The Humane Society. Thanks so much, Valerie. We look forward to our future collaboration towards the common goal of raising animal welfare standards.

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