Roy Exum: Say It Ain't So, Larry Joe!

Thursday, July 24, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Larry Joe Wheelon, the tainted horse trainer who was charged with 18 counts of aggravated animal cruelty when his barn was raided in April of 2013 and some animals were sored so badly that they could barely walk, finally went to a court hearing in Blount County on Wednesday and his steps toward Judge Tammy Harrington’s bench were decidedly heavy. My goodness, yours would have been too if, like Larry Joe, you had been cited just 12 days earlier on what is believed to be yet another violation in a long string of violations against the federal Horse Protection Act.

As unbelievable as it may appear, on July 12 Wheelon and another defendant, Randall Stacy Gunner, attempted to enter a “sored” Tennessee Walking Horse in the Chestnut Hill Horse Show at Dandridge and officials immediately denied entry to the horse, aptly named “Shock It To Me,” due to the inspector’s claim that there was a unilateral sore on one of the front legs. The horse’s owner, Sharon Lambdin of Heiskell, Tn., was also ticketed.

Wheelon, now age 68 and once the chairman of the Ethics Committee for the Big Lick’s much-maligned Trainer’s Association, and his assistant have reportedly been suspended for 90 days (July 15-Sept. 12) by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for taking a “hot” horse to the Dandridge show but that didn’t stop him and three other men from appearing in court on far more serious charges yesterday.

Wheelon, Gunter, and a third barn worker, Brandon Randall Lundsford of Walland, are facing 13 felony counts and five more misdemeanor counts this week as the hearing gets underway while a fourth man, farrier Blake Tanner Primm, is facing one felony and one misdemeanor charge. Primm is believed to be the first farrier to ever be arrested for aggravated horse abuse. 

Under a state law, each felony could carry a jail sentence in Tennessee if the defendants are found guilty. Animal abuse was signed into law as a felony two years ago in Tennessee but, under federal law, soring is still a misdemeanor. The PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) now moving through the House and Senate would greatly enhance enforcement and conformity after the Big Lick trainers and other scoff laws have laughed off the Horse Protection Act since it was originally signed in 1970.

Many witnesses at the Wheelon barn when it was raided on April 18, 2013, said they were sickened as 19 horses had to be taken and put in quarantine. One was in such pain it bolted from an experienced handler, breaking the woman’s leg and causing other injuries. 

Members of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told reporters they had “never seen anything like it” and video and pictures taken by the Humane Society of the United States were graphic in their evidence. Veterinarians are expected to show those images during the upcoming trial. The next hearing has been set for Aug. 8.

Horse experts say it is impossible to achieve the Big Lick without coating the horse’s forelegs in caustic mixtures and then wrapping them in heavy Saran Wrap to “cook” for several days. The inflamed legs cause the horses to lift their legs high in a grotesque, unnatural dance. The pain literally causes some Walkers to die early; the owners crying “colic.”

In the meanwhile, Gannett News Service is reporting Rep. Ed Whitfield, who now has 304 members of Congress (70 percent) in favor of the PAST Act that will greatly help in the fight against sadistic soring, is considering what is called a discharge petition to force the measure to vote before Congress takes its summer vacation, a ruse the bill’s opponents are quietly gauging. 

The PAST Act has been endorsed by every large equine organization in the United States, as well as the nation’s leading veterinarian groups. Oddly, the biggest resistance has come from two states where the worst offenses occur – Tennessee and Kentucky. There are mounting accusations the Big Lick has bought favor with its political swag and proponents of the PAST Act are “incredulous,” according to close observers.

It is believed Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) is doing all in her power to block the bill from her seat as Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Blackburn is vehemently against the “Prevent All Soring Tactics” bill after the evil Big Lick segment of the Walking Horse industry allegedly paid thousands of dollars into her reelection campaign at a benefit last August. She got Tennessee’s other Republican members of Congress – including Chuck Fleischmann (R-Ooltewah) and Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper) -- to cosponsor her softer alternate legislation.

Lamar Alexander, whose opposition to the PAST Act and other animal advocacy bills is well-noted, has penned a weak alternate bill in the Senate. It is believed a big reason is that Alexander’s state campaign chairman is Steven B. Smith, a known Big Licker who wrestled away control of the Walking Horse all-powerful Breeders and Exhibitors Association this winter.

royexum@aol.com



Roy Exum: The Facebook Starlet

The Pants Store, a toney women’s boutique in Birmingham’s Mountain Book community, held its annual Holiday Open House about a week or so and, as usual, the popular store was full of customers and holiday cheer. It was a festive gathering, fun for all, but as store employees cleaned up for the next day, they happened across an empty designer-shoe box and a brassiere somebody had ... (click for more)

Senator David Perdue: I Have Heard Every Excuse Under The Sun - And Response

Here we go again. For the 19th consecutive year, Washington has not funded the federal government on time. As the current continuing resolution is expiring in the midnight hour, Congress is once again trying to pass a temporary fix three months after the beginning of the current fiscal year. This is ridiculous. In fact, Congress has only completed the full budget process four ... (click for more)

Tennessee Members Of Congress Urge President To Approve Federal Disaster Assistance For Tennessee Counties

Members of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation on Saturday urged President Obama to quickly approve Governor Haslam’s request for a major disaster declaration for the State of Tennessee to help five Tennessee counties impacted by wildfires and severe weather in November rebuild and recover. “Governor Bill Haslam has submitted a request for Public Assistance and Individual ... (click for more)

Grohn Says Integrity And Ethics Lacking In Berke Administration

Mayoral candidate Larry Grohn criticized controversies and instability coming from the mayor’s administration as a sign of unethical leadership and a lack of integrity. He said, "These scandals lay out the simple fact that it is time for new leadership which is accountable to the people." Councilman Grohn’s criticism comes after the independent auditor’s release of a memorandum ... (click for more)

Cleveland Shocks Bradley To Win Cleveland Duals

CLEVELAND – There have been a lot of positive and memorable experiences for the Cleveland Blue Raider wrestling team in recent years, but they’ll have a tough time topping the one they had in their own gym Saturday. Hosting the annual Cleveland Duals and certainly a team considered one of the pre-tournament favorites, the Blue Raiders beat three of the top four teams in the state, ... (click for more)

Heights Rallies For 72-67 Victory Over Athlete Institute

Kentucky signee Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored a team-high 26 points Saturday as Hamilton Heights rallied for a hard-fought 72-67 victory against Athlete Institute of Canada in the Buckeye Elite Showcase in Portsmouth, Ohio. The Hawks (7-2) built a 19-16 first-quarter lead, but fell behind 40-32 at halftime and still trailed 58-49 going into the fourth period at Portsmouth ... (click for more)