Tag Archives: horse

Horse racing study launched by legislature

The House approved and sent to the governor today a bill that tales a first step toward setting up a horse race gambling system in Tennessee.

The bill (SB1738) passed the Senate 24-2 on April 7 under sponsorship of Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. It was approved by the House today 50-32 with Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, as sponsor.

The measure sets up a seven-member “State Horse Racing Advisory Committee,” appointed by the governor, that must come up with its recommendations by July 1, 2018.

Horse race gambling was legalized years ago with a state Racing Commission named to oversee licensing and regulation – but no operations were ever established and the commission ceased to exist. In their comments, the sponsors said that one factor was that the state would get 5 percent of all proceeds – a figure they said was too high and discouraged people from investing in horse racing in Tennessee.

Niceley said in committee that he envisions small racing operations around the state at county fairs and the like as well as harness racing and steeplechase events.

Congressmen call for stricter enforcement of horse protection laws at TN Walking Horse show

In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, some members of Congress are urging stricter enforcement of horse-protection laws at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration under way in Shelbyville, reports The Tennessean.

The 59 House members, mainly Democrats, called for USDA to “undertake a substantial and active on-the-ground role to ensure strict enforcement of the Horse Protection Act.”

Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., released the letter, sent earlier this month, as he continues to fight for adoption of the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, which would significantly boost USDA’s ability to enforce the 1970 law while also outlawing special pads, chains and other “action devices” associated with the practice.

The Celebration started Wednesday and runs through Aug. 30.

…The lawmakers urged the department not to rely on industry-hired inspectors but to have its own personnel “aggressively inspect” horses in each class, both before and after shows.

The Celebration’s “open collaboration” with groups that oppose the PAST Act, the letter says, indicates the show itself “is not committed to ending soring practices.”

The letter added, “In our view, soring will continue unabated unless the changes contemplated by the PAST ACT are implemented.”

…Mike Inman, chief executive officer of the celebration, said in a statement that attacking the integrity of the inspectors was an attack on USDA itself, since industry-employed inspectors — known as “designated qualified persons (DQPs)” — receive their training from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a division of the federal agency.

“These people are trained, tested, and certified annually — regardless of how many years they have been doing the job — by the USDA. If the USDA did not feel they were competent, they wouldn’t hold these positions,” Inman said.

Most TN walking horses test positive for substances to mask soring

U.S. Department of Agriculture records show 67 percent of horses examined at the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville last year tested positive for substances that could mask soring, reports The Tennessean (as this year’s walking horse show gets underway).

“Has there ever been any sporting event with that rate of cheating?” said Teresa Bippen of Friends of Sound Horses, a St. Louis-based organization.

The masking and numbing agents wouldn’t be needed if soring were as limited as Big Lick owners and trainers contend, say supporters of the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act. The proposed bill in Congress would amend the 1970 Horse Protection Act and significantly bolster USDA’s ability to police the practice.

“The percentage of prohibited foreign substances found at Tennessee Walking Horse shows in recent years speaks volumes regarding the high degree of soring that still occurs within the Big Lick segment of this breed,” said Keith Dane, a specialist on equine issues for the Humane Society of the United States.

Dane and other PAST Act supporters see the prevalence of substances used to hide soring as rigging the Horse Protection Act compliance statistics cited by bill opponents.

Jeffrey Howard, spokesman for the Shelbyville-based Performance Show Horse Association, one of the major groups representing the industry’s Big Lick faction, declined to answer questions about the results for banned substances, saying they were based on “fundamentally flawed” information coming from “other parties,” a reference to groups like the Humane Society and the USDA itself.

But John Bennett, a Shelbyville veterinarian representing PSHA, attacked the banned-substance figures in a November 2013 appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, saying they were “unscientific, wholly misleading and provide no support” for the position of PAST Act supporters. In a horse-show environment, he said, it’s unrealistic to think a horse’s lower leg — called the “pastern” — and hooves could avoid trace amounts of various substances.

On Elvis, Priscilla Presley and TN walking horses

Priscilla Presley is backing legislation in Congress to put new restrictions on the walking horse and asking that the nation’s premier walking horse competition stop awarding a Graceland trophy, reports The Tennessean.

Presley said she didn’t know the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration still awarded the trophy, given in memory of her ex-husband, Elvis Presley. She attended the Shelbyville, Tenn., event in 1983 and donated it as part of an exhibition featuring Ebony’s Double, the last walking horse Elvis Presley ever bought. She thought it was a one-time award, but it’s been given every year since and is listed in the latest Celebration program under prizes for the Four-Year-Old Walking Horse World Grand Championship.

Today, she owns two Tennessee Walking Horses, stabled on the grounds of the Presley family’s Graceland estate in Memphis, and is a vocal supporter of a federal bill seeking to end abuse of the breed.

“Graceland isn’t going to support this, knowing what we know now,” Presley said Tuesday. “We want that trophy back.

“I can’t support the trophy when inhumane methods are used on these horses. I can’t support it.”

…The Celebration hasn’t yet received the request, said CEO Mike Inman, but that could be because the offices are closed for the holidays. He said he would like a chance to speak to Presley before she makes a final decision.

“I believe she’d come to a different conclusion,” Inman said.

TN Ag chief opposes bill to increase penalties for horse ‘soring’

Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson was in Washington Wednesday to oppose a bill pending in Congress that sponsors say will help prevent abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses by increasing penalties for “soring” and give increased enforcement powers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

From WPLN:

  Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson says animal cruelty shouldn’t be tolerated, but he says more laws won’t solve the problem.

“We understand the motives of some to tighten further regulation of the industry, in order to protect the horse. However, we caution against the overreaction by some who would seek to eliminate horse shows at the expense of rural communities across the state and horse owners.”

Johnson testified in front of a House subcommittee, whose members include Brentwood Republican Marsha Blackburn. She says the legislation unfairly singles out the state’s walking horse industry.

The bill has broad bipartisan support, with over 200 cosponsors. Memphis Democrat Steve Cohen is the only one from Tennessee

Lawsuit names TN as prospective location for horse slaughter plant

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Animal protection groups are suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to try to block the revival of domestic horse slaughter at commercial processing plants.
The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue of Larkspur, Colo., three other groups and five individuals filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking an emergency injunction to overturn the USDA’s recent permit approval for a horse meat plant in Roswell, N.M.
Four of the named plaintiffs are Roswell residents; the fifth lives in Gallatin, Mo., where a Rains Natural Meats equine slaughterhouse could next receive federal approval.
On Tuesday, the federal agency approved a horse slaughter plant in Sigourney, Iowa, and expects to endorse another request later this week. The Humane Society’s lawsuit named prospective processing plants in Gallatin and Rockville, Mo.; Woodbury, Tenn.; and Washington, Okla.
(Note: A 2012 bill by Rep. Andy Holt, D-Dresden, would have erected legal hurdles for any lawsuits against establishing horse slaughterhouses and included a declaration that “the General Assembly intends to encourage the location of equine slaughter and processing facilities in Tennessee that meet all sanitary, safety and humane slaughter requirements.” The measure made it to the House floor, but was never put to a floor vote.)
Horse slaughterhouses last operated in the U.S. in 2007 before Congress banned the practice by eliminating funding for plant inspections. Federal lawmakers restored those cuts in 2011, but the USDA has been slow in granting permits, citing the need to re-establish an oversight program. In a written statement Tuesday, the agency said it was legally required to approve Responsible Transportation’s plant in southeast Iowa.

Continue reading

HSUS Sees Deception in Walking Horse Soring Report

News release from Humane Society of the United States:
(May 9, 2013)– In contrast to the two foreign substance violations reported by the Tennessee walking horse industry at the 2012 National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn., the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s testing revealed that 145 horses out of 190 tested, or 76 percent, were found positive.
The Humane Society of the United States has requested that Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr. open an investigation into the veracity of public statements made by officials connected to the Walking Horse Trainers Association Enforcement Initiative, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and the Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization about their initiative to detect unlawful horse soring at the 2012 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.
(Note: A spokeswoman for Cooper said the letter has been received and is under review by the attorney general’s office.)
The HSUS maintains that this discrepancy raises a serious concern that participants and spectators at the Celebration were falsely assured that horses entered were compliant with the federal Horse Protection Act, when evidence of cruelty and cheating may have been concealed by the organizers of the event. The foreign substance testing is used to detect the presence of painful caustic chemicals that trainers apply to horses’ legs. Other cruel training methods – collectively referred to as “soring” – are used to obtain the prized high-stepping gait of the walking horse.

Continue reading

Walking Horses Seized,Trainer Charged With Animal Cruelty

From the News Sentinel website:
Federal and local authorities seized 19 horses from a Blount County stable of a walking horse show trainer Thursday on suspicion that the animals have been subjected to the practice known as “soring.”
The trainer, Larry Joe Wheelon, 68, is charged with one felony count of animal cruelty, with additional charges pending, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
The seizure came a week after U.S. Department of Agriculture agents and Blount County authorities executed a search and seizure warrant at Wheelon’s barn on Tuckaleeche Pike in response to an anonymous tip.
Authorities returned Thursday to remove the 19 horses, which were visibly in pain, including several that were barely able to stand.
Investigators suspect the horses’ injuries were caused by soring — the application of caustic chemicals and painful devices to their hooves and legs used to produce the artificial, high-stepping “Big Lick” gait.
“It’s a significant number of horses to get to safety,” said Leighann McCollum, Tennessee director for HSUS. “Horses that will never have to endure that again — hopefully.”
The Blount County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to All Animals and Horse Haven of Tennessee assisted in removing the horses to an undisclosed location, McCollum said. The Blount County Sheriff’s Office also provided security during the seizure.
Wheelon is an active director of the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainer’s Association and sits on its ethics committee, according to the Humane Society. Since 1993, he has been cited by inspectors 15 times for violations of the federal Horse Protection Act. Wheelon was booked into the Blount County Justice Center Thursday in lieu of $5,000 bond.

Humane Society Opposes DesJarlais

News release from Humane Society Legislative Fund:
WASHINGTON (Nov.1. 2012) – In his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Scott DesJarlais scored “zero” on the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s ratings of lawmakers, and has been active in efforts to thwart enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and passage of legislation to make it a crime to bring a child to a dogfight or a cockfight.
“Caring for God’s helpless creatures is a measure of character, and Scott DesJarlais has failed that test,” said Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “He not only voted against an effort to crack down on bringing children to dogfights, but he’s also tried to undermine efforts of the USDA to enforce laws against the criminal practice of horse soring.”
That issue was in the news in Tennessee and throughout the nation after an undercover video investigation into the handling of horses by Jackie McConnell, a former Hall of Fame trainer of Tennessee Walking Horses. McConnell pleaded guilty to violations of federal law and is now facing state anti-cruelty charges. DeJarlais wrote a letter stating he is “concerned” about USDA’s enforcement actions, and believes “they are unacceptable and create great uncertainty for the industry.”
DesJarlais scored a zero out of 100 percent on the Humane Scorecard for the 112th Congress, failing to support a single animal welfare policy and voting against every animal welfare measure that came to the House floor. DesJarlais has:
• Voted in the House Agriculture Committee to oppose an amendment to make it a crime for an adult to bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight (AMDT.32/H.R.6083). The amendment was approved by the Agriculture Committee, and the underlying House bill has 226 cosponsors, including 78 Republicans. The Senate passed a similar amendment by a vote of 88 to 11.
• Voted to allow American trophy hunters to import the heads and hides of polar bears killed for sport in the Arctic, even though polar bears are listed as a threatened species (H.AMDT.1008/H.R. 4089).
• Voted twice to waste taxpayer dollars on subsidies to massive factory farms, which thrive on taxpayer giveaways that keep animal feed artificially cheap, jeopardize public health, the environment, and animal welfare, while also driving smaller and more humane, sustainable family farms out of business (H.AMDT.124/H.R.1) and (H.AMDT.478/H.R. 2112).
• Voted to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on the use of aerial gunning, toxic poisons, steel-jawed leghold traps and other inhumane methods of killing predators as a federal subsidy for private livestock ranchers. (H.AMDT.471/H.R.2112).
• Not co-sponsored any of the bills to crack down on puppy mills, end the use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments, or reform the egg industry which is the top legislative priority for that agriculture sector.
HSLF is a nonpartisan organization that evaluates candidates based only on a single criterion: where they stand on animal welfare. HSLF does not judge candidates based on party affiliation or any other issue.

Bill Would Strengthen Walking Horse Regulation

Two House members introduced legislation Thursday to strengthen laws against soring of Tennessee Walking Horses, but supporters warned that the bill would not be easy to pass, reports The Tennessean.
While soring — inflicting pain on horses’ legs, joints and hooves so that their gait becomes more high stepping — is already against the law, Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, said their bill would amend the Horse Protection Act of 1970 to:
• Put the Agriculture Department in charge of licensing inspectors and have it assign an inspector to any show that requests one. It also increases the number of inspectors the agency can use for surprise inspections at shows that don’t request a licensed inspector. Funding for the increase in inspectors would come from giving the department a share of the entrance fees that horse owners pay at shows.
• Outlaw the use of “action devices” that rub on sore areas of a horse to increase pain.
• Increase penalties for soring, with fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to three years or both.
• Increase fines from $2,000 to $4,000 for hiring an unlicensed inspector.
Whitfield and Cohen announced the bill at a Capitol Hill news conference where they also showed an undercover video aired by ABC News’ “Nightline” that showed horses wrenching in pain because of soring techniques employed by trainers.
No matter what the industry says, “it appears this is a widespread practice,” Whitfield
…The Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization denounced the proposed bill.
“The attacks from Congressman Whitfield are expected as his wife is the vice president of legislative affairs for the Humane Society of the United States, an organization that stands to gain financially for going after the walking horse industry,” Jeffrey Howard, communications director for the group, said in a statement.
The statement alluded to gains in contributions that the Humane Society would receive because of its championing of the issue.