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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Honoring the memory of a hero for horses, Congress must take action on PAST

U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings was a giant in the halls of Congress and in the hearts of horse lovers everywhere. We mourn his passing while acknowledging the rich legacy he leaves on preventing cruelty to horses. Senator Tydings, the father of the federal Horse Protection Act, represented Maryland from 1965 to 1971. He also lobbied pro bono with us in recent years to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act. I fondly recall his stories of the U.S. Senate and his experiences there. He was a larger than life individual to the very end, and we’ll remember him with the deepest gratitude.

Hslf-soring-blog-300x200
Photo by the HSUS

A lifelong horseman, “Joe,” as he preferred to be called, strongly appreciated the contribution of horses to our society. He served in the last horse cavalry unit of the U.S. Army during World War II.

Tydings was appalled when he learned of the vile cruelty known as “soring,” in which trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds using caustic chemicals, chains, weighted shoes, hard objects, cutting, and other gruesome techniques to force them to perform a pain-based artificially high-stepping gait—the "Big Lick"—to gain unfair competitive advantage at shows. Working with the HSUS and other groups, he led the charge on legislation he thought would end the practice once and for all—a bill that took three Congresses to pass, in 1970.

In recent years, upon hearing that the law he had worked so hard to enact had failed to accomplish its goal due to loopholes—some created by a 1976 amendment and others by weak U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations—that enable violators to evade detection, he joined the battle again.

Tydings signed annual letters to key Senators and Representatives urging increased funding so that USDA could better enforce the law. He wrote to officials at all levels of USDA, urging tougher regulations and enforcement. He was known to walk the halls of Congress to make his case, too. 

The senator will be remembered as a staunch advocate for the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R.1847/S.2957—a bill to strengthen the Horse Protection Act by banning the use of devices integral to the soring process, eliminating the conflict-ridden, failed system of industry self-policing, and increasing penalties. He teamed up with former Senator John Warner of Virginia, also an ardent horseman, to advocate for the PAST Act in a bipartisan op-ed published in The Hill, “Stop torturing horses now.”

A former U.S. Attorney, Tydings encouraged and applauded the prosecution of Jackie McConnell—the notorious Hall of Fame Walking Horse trainer who pled guilty to numerous federal charges as a result of the HSUS’ 2011 undercover investigation—and stood with us on the courthouse steps on the day McConnell was sentenced.

He was a presenter and frequent attendee at the Sound Horse Conference events organized by Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH).

Tydings was also a co-petitioner with the HSUS and partner organizations in a petition to USDA seeking regulatory reforms, and he enthusiastically supported the agency’s rule (announced as final in January 2017 but then put on the shelf by the Trump Administration) to strengthen Horse Protection Act regulations. 

For all of his extraordinary efforts, the HSUS honored Tydings with its Humane Horseman of the Year award in 2016.

Joe Tydings was a passionate advocate for horses and a true friend to the HSLF and the animal protection community. We must never let the contributions of this valiant warrior for fairness and humaneness be forgotten. We must honor his legacy by securing long-overdue passage of the PAST Act, to achieve the vision promised by the Horse Protection Act nearly 50 years ago. Congress should be inspired by his example and never let the demands of a few who profit off the abuse of horses prevail. Members of the U.S. House and Senate should cosponsor the PAST Act if they haven’t already, and do all they can to ensure it moves swiftly to a vote.

Please contact your legislators and urge them to pass the PAST Act!

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