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




Equity Study

What exactly is an Equity Study? Is the the damage control that comes in the wake of the UnifiEd outburst a few weeks ago? I can save the board a whole lot of hassle since the mere mention of doing such a study means that the study will reveal inequities, regardless of any basis.  If they would like to throw a quarter million down the drain for 20 pages ... (click for more)

Coppinger And UnifiEd

I am writing in response to Mayor Jim Coppinger's puzzling quotes in Roy Exum's column this morning, wherein the mayor seems to disavow UnifiEd and its position on the socio-economic desegregation of our schools. On  April 5 , I attended a candidate forum hosted by the North Brainerd Neighborhood Council at the Eastdale Recreation Center gym. That evening, Mayor ... (click for more)

Jury Finds Donaldson Guilty Of Second-Degree Murder In Killing Of Son-In-Law

A Criminal Court jury late Friday afternoon returned a verdict of guilty of second-degree murder against Glen Donaldson in the killing of his son-in-law, Adam Levi. He is facing 15-60 years in state prison. Judge Don Poole will set the sentence at a sentencing hearing on July 12.  He has been free on bond, but was taken into custody after the verdict. The jury deliberated ... (click for more)

1st Vote On Controversial Signal Mountain Grocery Proposal Set June 13; Town To Choose Either Tennessee American Or Waldens Ridge For Water Service

The next steps in rezoning 617 Cauthen Way were discussed at the Signal Mountain work session Friday afternoon. Since the last council meeting, Town Manager Boyd Veal created a list of conditions to include in the zoning ordinance relating to the proposed commercial development designed to assure that there is no negative impact to the surrounding properties or to the interest of ... (click for more)

Summertown Stops Sale Creek's Bid For A State Class 1A State Softball Title, 7-5

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Sale Creek had its sight set on making some softball history Friday. The Lady Panthers reached their first TSSAA state softball championship with a 3-1 victory over Cascade, powered by a Trinity Liner three-run homer on her 18 th birthday. A few hours later, they wanted to beat Summertown and set up a second title game for all the marbles. ... (click for more)

Silverdale Wins D-II-A State Softball Title

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Kaili Phillips got disqualified in the first inning of Thursday’s game against the Tipton-Rosemark Lady Rebels and nobody gave the Silverdale Lady Seahawks a snowball’s chance of winning that game. But they did. Nobody gave the Lady Seahawks much of a chance of repeating that feat less than 24 hours later in the winner-take-all final game, but once again, ... (click for more)