Newly introduced legislation aims to better Enforce the Horse Protection Act, crackdown on animal cruelty

The bipartisan Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act would create a new Animals Crimes section within the Department of Justice
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In a major federal legislative initiative, Congressmen Joe Neguse (D-CO-02), David Joyce (R-OH-14) and Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) introduced the Animal Cruelty Enforcement (ACE) Act, H.R. 1016, a bill they forged in cooperation with Animal Wellness Action, the Animal Wellness Foundation, the Horses for Life Foundation, American Horse Protection Society, and the Center for a Humane Economy to step up federal action against perpetrators of malicious cruelty. The measure would create a new Animal Cruelty Crimes section within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), housed within the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Highly stylized image of a Tennessee Walking Horse

The proposed Department of Justice section would concentrate on enforcing existing laws such as the Horse Protection Act of 1970 that was designed to end the practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses.

Within the last three years, Congress and the White House fortified the legal framework against animal abuse, enacting the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act and other federal statutes criminalizing malicious acts of cruelty. The new DOJ section would concentrate on enforcing those laws and other previously enacted animal welfare criminal statutes such as the Horse Protection Act (HPA) of 1970 that was designed to stamp out the cruel practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses. The ACE Act was conceived in part to help better enforce the HPA after nearly a decade of failed attempts to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) regulations that would have eliminated the use of large-stacked shoes and ankle chains in the showring and revamped the industry’s corrupt self-policing program.

“We applaud Congressmen Neguse, Joyce, and Cohen for the introduction of the ACE Act that would enable DOJ to ramp up enforcement of the HPA and stamp out soring, a task the USDA has failed miserably for more than half a century,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, and a past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association.“Until meaningful penalties are meted out against blatant violators of the law, the cruelty practice of soring will persist. There must be a penalty to fit the crime.”

“U.S. laws are in place to protect animals from torture and abuse, but too often they aren’t being enforced—including federal statutes such as the Horse Protection Act,” said Allondra Stevens, founder of Horses For Life Foundation. “Establishing a dedicated Animal Cruelty Crimes Division within the Department of Justice is an essential step towards fully investigating and prosecuting individuals that prey on animals. We fully support the Animal Cruelty Enforcement (ACE) Act and hope to see its swift passage into law this Congressional session.”

“Proper enforcement of animal cruelty laws will protect animal welfare and help keep our communities safe from the violence so often linked to these crimes,” said Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO-02). “The Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act, which I am proud to have introduced with my bipartisan co-leads, seeks to bolster the prosecution of these crimes by providing the necessary resources and staffing for efficient enforcement.”

“As a life-long pet owner and a member of the Congressional Horse Caucus, I am proud to introduce the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act alongside Congressman Neguse, to ensure that there is proper enforcement for crimes against animals,” said Congressman Dave Joyce (R-OH-14). “As a former prosecutor, I know we can do more to crack down on criminals who abuse animals, and as a Member of Congress, I feel obligated to provide the tools necessary to do just that. The ACE Act will improve the federal government’s ability to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty crimes by creating a dedicated Animal Cruelty Crimes section within the Department of Justice, so that perpetrators of these heinous crimes will be held accountable in a timely, efficient manner.”

“Enforcement of laws already on the books, including those banning dog fighting and other cruel practices, is critical to ending these barbaric practices, which is what this measure aims to do,” said Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. “I’m proud to support the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act because inflicting harm on defenseless animals has no place in a civilized society.”

“Despite the unique role that horses occupy in our nation’s history, and culture, they are still subjected to terrible mistreatment and deliberate cruelty,” said Scott Beckstead, director of campaigns at the Center for a Humane Economy, and a lifelong horseman. “The Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act will fortify existing protections and elevate the mission of the Department of Justice in protecting American horses and all animals from the most cruel and depraved elements in our society.”

A dedicated Animal Cruelty Crimes section at DOJ would allow for robust and effective enforcement of these crimes by designating personnel focused on these issues. DOJ already has dedicated sections on other important societal concerns, such as environmental protection, wildlife, and organized crime. Identical bipartisan, bicameral, companion legislation was introduced in 2020 by U.S. Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., John Kennedy, R-La., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and will be reintroduced in the coming months.

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