The Horse Protection Act prohibits soring—the deliberate injury to a horse’s feet and legs to achieve an exaggerated, high-stepping gait. | Photo: Courtesy USDA

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has filed suit against the UDSA, claiming the federal agency is preventing the public from accessing Horse Protection Act (HPA, which prohibits soring, the deliberate injury to a horse’s feet and legs to achieve an exaggerated, high-stepping gait) violation records on its website.

In a complaint filed on March 21, HSUS alleges that the USDA removed public records containing descriptions of soring, cruelty, and abuse by trainers and owners of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds from its website last year.

“The records had previously been available to the public in a searchable online database for years, and their removal made it impossible for the public and organizations to learn which facilities were failing to comply with federal animal protection laws,” the HSUS alleged.

Parties that submitted Freedom of Information Act data requests received the records long after the request, and the documents were “highly redacted,” the organization said.

R. Andre Bell, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service public affairs specialist said the agency doesn’t “ comment on pending litigation,” but declined further comment.

Meanwhile, the data removal has specifically impacted the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, said March Irby, senior adviser of the HSUS Legislative Fund.

“Horse buyers no longer have a resource in which to research whether or not a trainer they select has current HPA violations and could even unknowingly purchase a horse currently suspended from the show ring,” Irby said. “This is a major setback in the battle to end soring.”

The case is pending.