Humane Society pushes for state prosecution
Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 8:00 pm
CHATTANOOGA (AP) — A national animal protection group is asking Tennessee prosecutors to step up enforcement against hurting horses to force exaggerated gaits.
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/UxdUp6), the Humane Society of the United States last week called on 11 Tennessee district attorneys to test swab samples collected at Tennessee walking horse shows during 2012 and prosecute if evidence of soring is found.
“We’re hopeful with all public attention that soring walking horses and the Jackie McConnell case has generated, that these DAs will want to set an example and deterrent in their communities,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society.
The newspaper said prosecutor Robert Carter, whose district includes Shelbyville where the National Celebration for the walking horse breed is held, did not return a call seeking comment.
District Attorney General Russell Johnson of the 9th Judicial District replied, saying he is turning the Humane Society letter over to an assistant prosecutor whom he said “has a heart for these cases.”
Johnson said his office is currently handling a number of horse malnutrition cases. The district covers Meigs, Roane, Loudon and Morgan counties.
Jamie Hankins, the outgoing president of the Walking Horse Trainers Association and a board member of the organization, said he had not seen the letter from the animal protection group.
A federal case this year against trainer Jackie McConnell of Collierville brought him a three-year probationary sentence and a $75,000 fine.
On Sept. 18, Jackie McConnell, told U.S. District Judge Harry “Sandy” Mattice in Chattanooga, “I take responsibility for what I’ve done.”
The Humane Society secretly recorded video inside McConnell’s training stable and released it publicly. It showed caustic substances being applied to horses’ legs and hooves and the animals being beaten to make them stand.
In the wake of public outrage over the video, the U.S. Department of Agriculture adopted tougher minimum penalties for exhibitors and owners of walking horses found to be sored.
The new rules prompted lawsuits and the USDA decertified horse groups that act as lay show inspectors.
There have been amendments proposed to strengthen the Horse Protection act to make soring a federal felony. State law already specifies it as such.
Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com
Published in The Messenger 12.12.12