Judge Orders Defendant To Write Newspaper Article About Horse Soring; Mays Released After Serving 4 Months

Monday, August 6, 2012

Federal Judge Sandy Mattice on Monday morning ordered a man caught horse "soring" to write a newspaper article about the topic as part of his probation.

Judge Mattice directed John Mays to "describe the different types and the immediate and long-term effects it brings on the horses."

He said he also should report "who seeks out" the practice of applying caustic agents and other methods to the feet of Tennessee Walking Horses so they will walk with an exaggerated gait at horse shows - mainly held at Shelbyville, Tn.

The judge said Mays should tell "how widespread" a practice is horse soring.

Mays was arrested along with several others, including Jackie McConnell - West Tennessee horse trainer who was caught abusing a horse on a secretly-taped video that got widespread publicity.

Mays served almost four months in jail, though it was mainly because he earlier violated the terms of his probation. His sentencing range was zero-6 months. Prosecutors had recommended a "downward departure" for him as part of his cooperation in the case.

Judge Mattice allowed him to be released on time served. He lives in Mississippi and was awaiting a ride home from his aunt, who did not arrive in time for the sentencing. Mays will be on probation for a year.

Mays had little to say at the hearing. Asked by Judge Mattice if he was surprised to be caught up in such a situation, he said, "It kind of surprised me too. I never thought it would be like this." Judge Mattice said, "That's an understatement."

Prosecutor Steve Neff noted that the federal Horse Protection Act has been on the books since 1970, but no one had been charged under it until a year and a half ago.

He said that prosecution out of Chattanooga "has created a domino effect in all sorts of avenues."

Due to national publicity, he said there had been cries for reform of the walking horse industry, "and hopefully it will continue."

Prosecutor Neff said he had heard from numerous horse lovers on the topic, and "I'm sure the court has too."

Judge Mattice said, "I've heard from hundreds, if not thousands, of people. I hope they understand that the court doesn't make the laws. That happens in the large building with the dome on it."

He and prosecutor Neff both noted that the current federal horse protection law carries little prison time.

But they said that new attention to the law has brought a major focus on treatment of horses and "hopefully will start creating a change in the culture."



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