Roy Exum: Tennessee’s New ‘Horse’ Bill

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
With regrettably little media fanfare, on May 21 Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed into state law a bill that will make animal abuse a felony instead of a misdemeanor. This means that anyone who is caught in the state who is found guilty of “aggravated cruelty to livestock” can be subjected to Class E felony sentencing guidelines of “no less than one year imprisonment and no more than five years” when the new law takes effect on July 1, 2012.
The welcome bill, sponsored by State Senator Douglas Henry (D-Nashville) and Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville), is the most heartening news to come in the wake of a scathing undercover video that cast a nationwide pall on the state’s walking horse industry and has triggered new-found belief that the soring and abuse of show horses is still quite prevalent in the state and the industry itself.
Under the Tennessee bill, SB 2759, any persons who commit “aggravated cruelty to a livestock animal who, in a depraved and sadistic manner, intentionally engages in any conduct …. that results in serious bodily injury or the death of that animal” can be jailed, fined and could “surrender custody and forfeit all of their livestock animals in their possession.”
What constitutes “aggravated cruelty to livestock,” according to the bill, are the following offenses:
-- Setting an animal on fire;
-- Burning an animal with any hot object;
-- Cutting or stabbing an animal with any object;
-- Causing blunt force trauma to an animal;
-- Securing an animal to a vehicle and dragging it;
-- Blinding an animal;
-- Applying acid or other caustic substance or chemical to any exposed area of an animal or forcing the animal to ingest the substance;
-- Hanging a live animal;
-- Skinning an animal while it is alive;
-- Administering electric shock to an animal;
 -- Drowning an animal; or
-- Shooting a (livestock) animal with a weapon.
Obviously there are exceptions to the bill, such as “dispatching rabid, diseased, sick or injured livestock animals” and while the only worrisome loophole is “applying methods and equipment used to train livestock animals,” the intent is quite clear. Prosecutors believe the bill SB-2759 will greatly enhance enforcement and prosecution of trainers such as Barney Davis and Jackie McConnell who have pleaded guilty in Federal Court of conspiracy to violate the federal Horse Protection Act.
Unfortunately, current federal guidelines include no jail time but Davis was also found guilty of obstruction of justice and threatening a witness. On those charges the gaited-horse trainer was sentenced to a year in prison, three years of supervised release and fined $4,000. Two others who also pleaded guilty at the time, associates Christen Altman and Jeffery Bradford, were each sentenced to one year of federal probation.
At the time Davis was sentenced, he alleged soring was widespread in the walking horse industry and showed examples of chains, bolts, bocks and eight-pound tungsten shoes that scofflaws use for the exaggerated gait in horse shows. He told a Federal Court “everybody” was soring the beautiful animals.
McConnell, widely-known as a “hot” trainer for the last three decades, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a trial last week and he and three associates - Jeff Dockery, John Mays, and Joseph R. Abernathy - are scheduled to be sentenced in Chattanooga on Sept. 10 by federal judge Sandy Mattice. Federal guidelines for violations of the Horse Protection Act are woefully weak and Judge Mattice could veer from accepting the plea deal.
As a matter of fact, the Horse Protection Act was introduced in 1970 but until federal prosecutors in East Tennessee took on Davis and McConnell at an inspector’s insistence, there have not been any guilty pleas registered in 40 years of federal oversight. Justice officials on the federal and state level, now aware of the chronic abuse and the continuing soring, vow there will be further indictments.
Celebration officials announced Monday that of 599 horses that appeared over the Memorial Day weekend at the 42nd Annual Spring Fun Show in Shelbyville, only 16 showed problems, but Keith Dane, the director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States, said one horse at the show had a record of eight previous HPA violations.
Dane, who is on the board of directors of the Tenn. Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, is being blamed for the undercover video that CBS aired on “Nightline” and will face an expulsion hearing in late June from the Celebration group. The hearing, which will be closed to the public, is June 22 in Lewisburg.
McConnell, still awaiting trial in Fayetteville, Tn., on state charges next month, was banned from all Celebrations events for life last week and now other horse shows and organizations have decreed the Collierville trainer will not be welcome at events this summer.
Owners of Tennessee Walking Horses across the country are urging their states to adapt similar laws to the new Tennessee legislation and feel “jail time” is the best deterrent to the trainers and owners who will cheat in order to win a blue ribbon.

A Light Rain Began To Fall - And Response (3)

Around noon Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the most powerful nation on Earth after a long and sometimes bitter campaign where 17 GOP candidates of his own party and two of the opposing party competed for the honor.   Thousands rejoiced in the Washington D.C. streets while policemen who had come along with national guardsmen pushed ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Lady Remembers Rex

Kevin Roden sits on the City Council in Denton, Texas (think the Dallas-Fort Worth airport area in the northeastern part of the state) and he is gearing up to run for a third term this spring. He’s already got his website up and, while the election isn’t until April, he writes on his blog every now and then. Last month he let his wife take a turn at it, which brings us to yesterday’s ... (click for more)

Alabama Man Faces Murder Charge In Shooting Death At Bradley County Landfill

An investigation by  s pecial agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has resulted in the arrest of an Alabama man in a shooting death that occurred last fall at the Bradley County landfill.   At the request of 10 th  District Attorney General Steve Crump, last Sept. 8 TBI special agents began investigating a shooting death that occurred that ... (click for more)

Man Shot In East Lake Winds Up Facing Several Criminal Charges

Police said a man who was shot on Sunday morning in East Lake was assaulting the woman who shot him and others immediately before the gunfire.   Police said 29-year-old Latesha Hinton would not be charged in the shooting of Dieshunn Lindsey, 30. At approximately  10:50 a.m.,  officers with the Chattanooga Police Department responded to the 2700 block of ... (click for more)

Tullahoma Nips East Hamilton For Central Mat Title

The annual Central Invitational wrestling tournament was cancelled two weeks ago by the threat of inclement weather, but they were able to get it in on Saturday and it was a battle to the wire for the team championship. Luke Champion was the individual winner at 285 pounds and it was his victory that lifted the Tullahoma Wildcats to the team title as they finished the day-long ... (click for more)

Father Ryan Rallies To Beat Soddy Daisy

The Soddy Daisy Trojans may have been embarrassed over a lopsided whipping they took at the hands of the Bradley Bears Thursday night in Cleveland, but they came out with fire in their eyes Friday night in a dual meet with Father Ryan. The host Trojans had a seemingly-comfortable 32-22 lead with three matches remaining, but the Purple Irish won all three -- including two with ... (click for more)