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.
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.
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.
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.”
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais has written U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack with concerns about Horse Protection Act enforcement which he said “cause great uncertainty for the industry and this coming ‘Celebration.'”
From the Shelbyville Times-Gazette: DesJarlais, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and its subcommittee on livestock, dairy and poultry, has asked to meet with Vilsack and his staff to discuss the issues.
DesJarlais claims that USDA has intimidated those in the industry from talking to their congressmen about the issue and refers to an allegation that if the industry went over the head of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Celebration would be shut down. The letter also refers to changes in enforcement results and procedures.
DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg), a physician, represents the 4th Congressional District. Bedford and Rutherford counties are in the process of being moved from the 6th District to the 4th District effective with this election cycle, as a result of redistricting which followed the 2010 Census. DesJarlais is finishing his first two-year term in the House and is running for re-election against Democratic State Sen. Eric Stewart of Winchester.
The Tennessee Walking Show Horse organization recently called DesJarlais “a friend to and advocate of the walking horse on Capitol Hill.”
— Note: DesJarlais is taking some criticism for his walking horse stance, an example being Roy Exum.