In a report issued recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General recommended that veterinarians replace current inspectors for the purpose of examining show horses for evidence of soring, an illegal practice in violation of the Horse Protection Act.
The USDA’s Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) program is responsible for evaluating the horses, but their budget is grossly inadequate, allowing them to send veterinarians to only a very small percentage of horse shows each year.
Conflicts of interest are also a problem.
In order to bridge the APHIS inspection gap, horse show sponsors hire their own inspectors, known as Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs). Since the DQPs are employed by the people putting on the shows, and are often exhibitors themselves, they are not highly motivated to ticket other exhibitors or remove horses from shows.
Penalizing exhibitors with sored horses can result in retribution if those exhibitors work as DQPs at other shows. Pulling sored horses from shows affects the bottom line, which is not something the organizers are in favor of.
As a result, DQPs issue few violations when not accompanied by an APHIS employee.
Another problem is the overt hostility of exhibitors toward APHIS workers at horse shows. The USDA audit revealed cases of inspectors denied access to horses requiring examination, and instances of verbal abuse of inspectors. The hostile environment has led APHIS to bring armed security or police with them to shows.
The USDA’s report states, “Many in the horse show industry do not regard the abuse of horses as a serious problem, and resent USDA inspections. The practice of soring has been ingrained as an acceptable practice in the industry for decades.”
In its response to the report, APHIS states that it will seek another $400,000 in funding for 2011 to bring its budget up to $900,000 per year. Another recommendation from the report, publishing lists of Horse Protection Act violators on its website, already has been put into effect by APHIS.
But turning the inspections over solely to veterinarians is not a move APHIS is willing to make right now, says USDA spokesperson Dave Sacks.
“We want to revise the regulations to require those DQPs to be licensed with APHIS and independent from the horse show industry instead of saying it’s going to be nothing but veterinarians,” Sacks explains.
Dr. Becker’s Comments:
I doubt anyone is surprised the APHIS ‘Designated Qualified Person’ horse inspection program isn’t working. Industry self-regulation is an oxymoron on the order of jumbo shrimp.
‘Soring’ – A Benign Term for a Cruel Practice
Soring, in a nutshell, is deliberately hurting a horse to change his gait.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, APHIS describes it this way in the Horse Protection Act:
Soring is a cruel and abusive practice used to accentuate a horse’s gait. It may be accomplished by irritating or blistering a horse’s forelegs through the application of chemicals such as mustard oil or the use of mechanical devices.
Walking horses are known for possessing a naturally high gait, but in order to be successful in competition their natural gait is often exaggerated. The exaggerated gait can be achieved with proper training and considerable time, however, some horse exhibitors, owners, and trainers have chosen to use improper and inhumane training methods to shorten the time it would take to produce a higher gait without abusive practices.
There are many methods of soring, and some have been held as closely guarded secrets through generations of horse owners and trainers. Among the more common tactics:
- Applying caustic chemicals like diesel fuel and kerosene on the horse’s pasterns, wrapping the legs in plastic, then adding leg wraps over the plastic so the acid burns into the animal’s flesh.
- Injecting harmful chemicals or drugs into the pasterns.
- ‘Pressure shoeing,’ which involves putting an object like a screw, a bolt or even one half of a golf ball against the soles of a horse’s front hooves, then shoeing the animal. An alternate method involves cutting the hoof wall and sole down to the quick, then shoeing over the raw surface.
As a sore horse puts weight on a front leg he feels intense pain, and he pulls his foot up quickly, giving the effect of extraordinary lift in the front. Once he realizes both front feet are painful, he tries to shift his weight to the rear. The resulting gait is known in some circles as the ‘praying mantis crawl.’
History of Soring
Popular in the 1940s and 1950s, Tennessee Walking Horses were known for their exaggerated front leg action. Audiences applauded, and this leg action was also rewarded by horse show judges.
Owners of less gifted horses learned they could produce similar movements in their animals through the use of weighted shoes, weighted chains around the pasterns, and stacked pads.
Over time, as more horses displayed the ‘big lick’ movement, front leg action got higher, and judges rewarded the most dramatic performers in shows, a percentage of trainers turned to ever shadier and harmful tactics to produce quick results in their animals.
Though the practice began with Tennessee Walking Horses, it has spread to other gaited breeds. Gaited horses are those with a natural tendency toward an easy-to-ride, ambling gait that is faster than a walk but slower than a gallop.
A short list of some other gaited breeds includes:
- American Saddlebred
- Icelandic horse
- Missouri Foxtrotter
- Peruvian Paso
- Racking horse
There are many completely natural, painless ways to train gaited horses to exaggerate their natural inclination to ‘step lively.’ This harmless method of training takes time and skill, but conscientious owners and trainers of sound horses would have it no other way.
The Situation Today
Despite the fact soring has been illegal since the passage of the Horse Protection Act in 1970, the practice is still prevalent. The USDA’s recent audit and report is evidence of how widespread the problem is.
According to the non-profit Friends of Sound Horses, if every Tennessee Walking Horse show in the U.S. could be inspected, soring violations could be as high as 10,000 to 20,000 a year.
The reason for soring? Human entertainment. Show ribbons. Better breeding fees.
This incredibly cruel practice needs to stop. Hopefully, as a result of the USDA audit, future APHIS inspections will be more widely applied and have more teeth.
In the meantime, organizations like Friends of Sound Horses, Stop Soring and the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) will continue to raise awareness and keep the pressure on APHIS and the horse industry to put an end to the needless torture of walking horses.
My 5 week old pup, Happy~
Thursday, 20 January 2011 16:52 by Dr. Jane
According to a 2009 study published by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 34 million dogs and 54 million cats are classified as overweight. Sadly, these staggering numbers continue to rise. Just like in humans, obesity is now the biggest health threat to pets in the U.S. Excess weight lowers metabolism, increases appetite and can worsen other medical conditions, such as arthritis and respiratory problems.
If your pet needs surgery, extra fat can make it more difficult for a surgeon to operate and increase the chances of complications with anesthesia. With nearly half the nation’s pet population afflicted with weight issues, chances are you or someone you know has a pet that is affected. Here are six tips to help your pet shed unwanted pounds and keep the weight off for good.
1. Increased Awareness
There are two main causes of obesity in pets: too many calories and too little exercise. Secondary factors can also come into play, such as genetic factors of a given breed or the sex of the animal. A quick online search will reveal whether or not your breed is prone to weight gain. And be aware that neutered, middle-aged and female pets are more likely to have weight issues.
The discouraging fact is that many pet parents accept their overweight pets as ‘normal’, or deny the problem altogether, making the problem less likely to be addressed.
Weight is not always the best indicator due to individual variation. For example, one Doberman may be trim at 70 pounds and another trim at 90. In addition, a drooping stomach does not always mean an animal is fat, especially in cats. The best way to determine whether or not your pet is overweight is to have your veterinarian do an assessment.
2. Change Your Lifestyle
Let’s face it … far too many Americans lead sedentary lifestyles, and their pets are following suit. It is no secret that we like to sit and eat at the same time, so if we are going to help ourselves and our pets avoid becoming the next victims of the obesity epidemic, we need to get everybody moving more and eating less.
Realize that everything your pet eats has calories – yes, including treats – so you can begin to reduce calories right away simply by providing low-calorie treats, such as Life’s Abundance’s Wholesome Hearts.
Increasing exercise is good for everybody. Long walks and playing fetch are good ways to bond with your dog, and you can get your cat moving with a feather wand or a laser pointer. Here’s a fun tip: cats love to chase small balls. Throw five or six little balls around and watch the fun … retrieve all the balls at once if you want to minimize your trips across the room.
3. Feed Frequent Small Meals and Measure Amounts
Did you know that every time you eat, you burn calories? The same is true for our companion animals. So measure the food amount for the whole day and divide it into several smaller meals. You can also feed a low-calorie treat or vegetable in between each small meal. It is vital that you measure the food, even if you free-feed. If your pet needs to lose weight, you can reduce portions by 30% without jeopardizing your pet’s health.
Remember that when pets beg for a treat, often what they really want is attention. Instead of a treat, how about a hug or a nice grooming session?
Consider supplementing a cat or small dog’s diet with canned food. Canned food often has a high moisture content, which helps your companion animal feel full with fewer calories. Remember to keep the overall calorie count consistent, even if you change their diet.
If you begin a weight-loss regimen and don’t see any results within two weeks, be sure to discuss other options with your veterinarian.
4. Keep Records
Food journals are not only very effective weight-management tools for people, they are for pets, too. Start by keeping records for seven days, tracking everything that you feed your companion animals. We often don’t realize how much we are really feeding until we see it mapped out.
5. Weight-Loss Medication
The FDA recently approved Slentrol, a weight-loss medication approved for canine use. The exact mechanism of this drug remains unknown, but researchers believe that it helps suppress the appetite and inhibit the absorption of fat. If you have tried all other options and still aren’t having success, or if your dog’s weight is putting his health in jeopardy, you may want to talk to your veterinarian about this new pharmaceutical offering.
6. Dietary Supplements
Many hormones can be controlled with phytonutrients. Resveratrol, sourced from the skin of grapes, has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, increase metabolic rate, boost physical endurance and reduce fat mass. Quercetin, found in fruits, vegetables, leaves and grains, has been shown to fight inflammation in obese patients. Leptin is a new hormonal supplement that suppresses appetites and is being used to facilitate weight-loss. Researchers have discovered that diabetic dogs have low levels of leptin, which can lead to overeating. Furthermore, researchers found that by adding leptin to the diet, canine appetites are noticeably suppressed. I caution you to only use these supplements under the supervision of your vet, as the proper dosages vary from animal to animal (for example, leptin can at certain dosages have the opposite effect, actually increasing appetites).
With a little bit of effort, a minimal investment in time and big helpings of love and patience, you can help your companion animal lose excess weight and maximize their chances for a longer, healthier and happier lifetime.
Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for your dear companions.
Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM
Kelly GS. A review of the sirtuin system, its clinical implications, and the potential role of dietary activators like resveratrol: part 2. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Dec;15(4):313-28.
Stewart LK, Soileau JL, Ribnicky D, Wang ZQ, Raskin I, Poulev A, Majewski M, Cefalu WT, Gettys TW. Quercetin transiently increases energy expenditure but persistently decreases circulating markers of inflammation in C57BL/6J mice fed a high-fat diet. Metabolism. 2008 Jul;57(7 Suppl 1):S39-46.
Nishii N, Yamasaki M, Takasu M, Honjoh T, Shibata H, Otsuka Y, Takashima S, Ohba Y, Kitagawa H. Plasma leptin concentration in dogs with diabetes mellitus. J Vet Med Sci. 2010 Jun;72(6):809-11. Epub 2010 Feb 9.
Source: Life Abundance Newsletter
In Home Euthanasia and Aftercare for Your Pet
Home Euthanasia – The Kindest Decision
The decision you have made after consulting with your veterinarian as well as family and friends to end suffering, pain, and the loss of life quality is a loving, caring one. Your decision to have the procedure performed in the home is the most peaceful, stress-free situation for your dear family member as well as the family members left behind.
If you live in a large city area, there are services that specialize in this. If you live in a smaller or more rural area, often the local vet with come to your home.
The most gentle method of euthanasia that is determined by the history, current treatment and evaluation of the condition of the pet at the time of the house visit. Generally the doctor will come to your home, some information and your consent will be gathered. When your pet is in a comfortable place the doctor will administer a heavy sedative that will take effect in minutes. This will make the pet unaware and out of pain. The doctor will then administer an overdose of barbiturate, which will peacefully ease the pet to sleep.
Fees vary, but you can usually get a comparison quote online and in many areas there are emergency services available 24-hours per day. If it is not an emergency, once you have recognized that your pet’s life quality is greatly diminished and the suffering must end soon most Vets and services will make an appointment for non-emergency services within 24 to 48 hours.
Services are tailored to your needs that include sedation, euthanasia, private cremation with delivery to your home in a decorative cedar urn, or aftercare without return of ashes. You may make other arrangements for aftercare. The fee depends upon several factors: whether the next available appointment is taken or an emergency is required, the size of the pet, and the aftercare option selected.
We all dread thinking about the fact that the day for the need for this service will come, but knowing that it is available when the time comes is often comforting.
Ask Marion – Just One More Pet