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WASHINGTON – The second-ranking Democrat in the House and a former Tennessee governor are the latest to endorse legislation protecting Tennessee Walking Horses from soring, the office of Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky said Friday.

Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House minority whip, became the 305th to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act. Whitfield, a Republican, is the lead sponsor.

That means 70 percent of the House is now behind the bill, although it is stuck in House Energy and Commerce Committee, where Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, is vice chair. Blackburn opposes the bill.

Meanwhile, Whitfield's office said former Gov. Winfield Dunn has said he will publicly endorse it as well.

Dunn, who served from 1971-1975, was Tennessee's first Republican governor in more than half a century.

Widely seen as cruel, soring involves using caustic chemicals, chains, special pads and other devices on a walking horse's legs and hooves to inflict pain and create an artificially high step, referred to as the "Big Lick."

While the House bill remains trapped in committee, an identical Senate version has cleared committee but has yet to get a floor vote. It has 57 sponsors, three short of the number needed to overcome a filibuster.

Horse organizations are developing strategies to ramp up grass-roots pressure on Congress during the August recess, said Whitfield spokesman Marty Irby.

Those groups include the All American Walking Horse Alliance (AAWHA), World Walking Horse Association (WWHA), Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) and National Walking Horse Association (NWHA).

"The amount of support for this legislation is astounding," Irby said.

Whitfield said earlier this week he is considering a discharge petition to force it out of Blackburn's committee and onto the House floor for a vote.

Blackburn and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander favor alternative legislation that would require "scientific" testing to detect soring. But critics say their bills are worded in a way that would protect the status quo.

Blackburn's bill has only 12 co-sponsors, most of whom are the other Republican House members in the Tennessee delegation. Alexander's bill has only four.

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