NASHVILLE, D.C., June 6 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has increased penalties for "soring," a practice that helps give Tennessee walking horses their characteristic gait.
Matthew Herrick, a spokesman for the USDA said the government decided to step in because industry groups are not doing a good job of inspecting horses and penalizing trainers, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported. The newspaper published an investigation Sunday that showed the number of violations reported increases sharply when USDA inspectors are present.
Under the new rules, which are to take effect July 9, horses found to be in violation of the Horse Protection Act before a show will be unable to compete. Trainers and other violators will be suspended from competitions and other industry events like auctions, with the length of suspension depending on their previous record.
Jackie McConnell, a prominent trainer in Collierville, Tenn., recently pleaded guilty to violations, including soring. Soring involves using a caustic substance on horses' ankles.