Washington lawmakers zeroed in on a business important to rural Tennessee Wednesday. A bill under consideration in the House aims to prevent abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses. Its opponents include the state’s Agriculture Commissioner.
The legislation would increase penalties for the practice known as horse soring, which is supposed to exaggerate their high-stepping gait. The bill also gives the US Department of Agriculture more power over inspectors at horse shows.
Wednesday, lawmakers heard from former a inspector and the one-time head of a walking horse association. Both say soring is a widespread problem. Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson says animal cruelty shouldn’t be tolerated, but he says more laws won’t solve the problem.
“We understand the motives of some to tighten further regulation of the industry, in order to protect the horse. However, we caution against the overreaction by some who would seek to eliminate horse shows at the expense of rural communities across the state and horse owners.”
Johnson testified in front of a House subcommittee, whose members include Brentwood Republican Marsha Blackburn. She says the legislation unfairly singles out the state’s walking horse industry.
The bill has broad bipartisan support, with over 200 cosponsors. Memphis Democrat Steve Cohen is the only one from Tennessee.