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.
SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee walking horse groups continue to clash with U.S. Agriculture Department inspectors this week as the industry’s premier event takes place in Shelbyville.
The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/QOjuzf) that frequently during the Celebration, USDA inspectors have issued citations where independent inspectors and an independent veterinarian found no signs of soring. Soring is the illegal practice of causing injuries to a horse’s legs or hooves to exaggerate the high-stepping gait that wins prizes.
On Monday night, USDA inspectors cited Winky Groover, a trainer who recently appeared in newspaper and television reports explaining what’s being done to clean up walking horse shows.
Groover disputed the UDSA’s finding that I’m Jiminy Cricket had been sored.
“(I’m Jiminy Cricket) was perfectly sound,” Groover said. “When the inspector turned him down, I took him to the veterinarian, and he was perfectly sound.”
Two West Tennessee state legislators tried to pass a bill this year that would have made it a crime to conduct the kind of undercover investigation that produced video of horse abuse, reports Richard Locker. The video resulted in federal and state charges against a Collierville walking-horse trainer and three associates. The bill was filed in January by state Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and appeared en route to passage in the Senate until it ran into opposition in a House subcommittee last month and died for the year.
As originally introduced, their bill — House Bill 3620/Senate Bill 3460 — would create a new state criminal offense “for a person to apply for employment with the intent to cause economic damage to the employer by means of unauthorized recording of video or audio while on the premises of the employer and releasing such recordings to a third party.”
The bill also declared that “All recordings taken in violation of this section shall be confiscated and, after used as evidence, destroyed.”
…A spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States said Thursday the Gresham-Holt bill would have made it illegal for the organization to have sent a representative undercover to work at Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s Whitter Stables in Fayette County near Collierville.
McConnell, 60, of Collierville, and three associates are charged in a 52-count federal indictment in Chattanooga with violating the federal Horse Protection Act. He also faces state charges of violating Tennessee’s Cruelty to Animals Act.
The Humane Society released its undercover video Thursday, showing horses being prodded with electric prods, having chemicals applied to their legs, struck with sticks and subjected to other abuses. (Note: the video is available HERE.)
HSUS said the video was shot in 2011 at Whitter Stables by an undercover representative who applied for a job and worked at the stables for about seven weeks. The video aired on ABC’s “Nightline” Wednesday night and “Good Morning America” on Thursday and is now posted on the HSUS website. The abuses it shows have sparked outrage nationally.
….Holt could not be reached Thursday but Gresham said she wasn’t aware of the HSUS investigation at any time, doesn’t know McConnell and that the bill’s purpose was to ensure that such recordings “get to law enforcement, not to third parties.”
“I just went to the HSUS website and saw the video that they had put on the website. That video needs to be on (Fayette County Dist. Atty.) Mike Dunavant’s desk, not on the internet.”
Gresham said it should be up to law enforcement whether to make videos publicly available, regardless of the Humane Society’s position that posting it raises public awareness of abuse.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A horse trainer and two employees pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal Horse Protection Act conspiracy that included screwing bolts into hooves and using other painful means to give the animals’ animated gaits at horse shows.
Barney Davis, 39 and Jeffery Bradford, 34, both of Lewisburg, and 26-year-old Christen Altman of Shelbyville, changed their pleas to guilty in agreements with prosecutors. They will be sentenced Feb. 13.
A fourth defendant, Paul Blackburn, 35, of Shelbyville, previously pleaded guilty and will be sentenced Jan. 23.