Turn The McConnell Lesson Into Something Bigger

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Yesterday, in a packed Chattanooga courtroom, the Hon. Harry S. Mattice, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee, handed down penalties in the horse abuse case involving Jackie McConnell - the Hall of Fame trainer of Tennessee walking horses, who in 2011 was captured on tape by an HSUS undercover investigator intentionally injuring the animals under his charge in order to get them to step higher and win ribbons at horse shows.

McConnell is now a convicted federal felon. The judge fined him $75,000 and sentenced him to three years supervised probation—specifically requiring him to report “any involvement with horses” to his probation officer—and to 300 hours of community service to be performed for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s the stiffest sentence ever handed down under the Horse Protection Act.

Like many, I would have liked to have seen McConnell do time in prison for the horrible things he did to horses–not just the ones that our investigator filmed him abusing, but all of the hapless creatures who were unlucky enough to fall under this man’s control. McConnell still faces 15 charges of violating Tennessee’s cruelty to animals statute in a pending case, and his guilty plea in federal court virtually guarantees the charges will stick. The threat of jail time still looms for McConnell in the state’s case.

But justice was done yesterday–and a signal was sent to every lawbreaker in the world of Tennessee walking horse shows that you don’t get away with abusing animals any longer. There’s no immunity for those who unlawfully torture horses to win ribbons–whether they’re the owners or the trainers. U.S. Attorney Bill Killian and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Neff made it abundantly clear that when evidence of these crimes is reported, offenders will be prosecuted.

As the United States argued in court yesterday, there’s a defect in the underlying law—the Horse Protection Act, which has not been upgraded since 1976—that allowed Jackie McConnell to maintain some measure of freedom in spite of the crimes he committed. Last week, we took a big step toward correcting it by working with humane-minded lawmakers to introduce legislation to expand the range of prohibited acts related to soring and to impose meaningful penalties for violations of the law.

This whole controversy is about more than Jackie McConnell. He is one trainer among dozens who have operated in a professional subculture that not only tolerates soring, but believes it’s essential to win.

Punishing McConnell is needed in order to see justice served. But if we stopped there, we’d be missing the point. Just as we’d be missing the larger point if we only wished to see Michael Vick punished, understanding that he was one of tens of thousands of people involved in dogfighting.

Just as The HSUS moved on from the Vick case and relentlessly pursued a comprehensive, multi-faceted attack on dogfighting, that’s what we need with soring.

The pitiful epilogue to Jackie McConnell’s training career ended yesterday, with his sentencing in Federal Court. Now, it is up to us to take the lessons of the McConnell investigation and arrest and translate it into something bigger. Our singular goal is to clean up the show world of Tennessee walking horse competitions, restore integrity to the sport, and put an end to all soring.

Soring is an archaic, barbaric, unnecessary practice. It’s also a crime, and in this case, the law has spoken. Other scofflaw trainers disregard this message at their peril, but also at the peril of their entire industry. The industry should be working with us to root out this corruption. 

Wayne Pascellle
President of the Humane Society of the United States 


The Environmental Impact Of The Proposed Walden Grocery Store

Improperly Installed Fire Hydrant Causing Damage At N. Crest Road, Colyar Drive

Why Reduce Traffic Into Northgate To One Lane?


The proposed grocery store in Walden on Signal Mountain is to be built over the Sewanee coal seam with 20 feet of mountain top removal and gas storage tanks dug even further into the ground. ... (click for more)

A fire hydrant that was installed just six weeks ago left an eight-foot-deep hole in the sidewalk. It is washing out under the street and larger limestone pillar and wall at the corner of North ... (click for more)

What brainiac traffic engineer decided it was a good idea to reduce traffic flow into Northgate from northbound Highway 153 to one lane? Must be affiliated with a front end alignment business. ... (click for more)


Opinion

The Environmental Impact Of The Proposed Walden Grocery Store

The proposed grocery store in Walden on Signal Mountain is to be built over the Sewanee coal seam with 20 feet of mountain top removal and gas storage tanks dug even further into the ground. Signal Mountain is covered with old mines and sinkholes that expose 20 million tons of coal in the Sewanee coal seam. The environmental hazards (wastewater, stormwater, acid damaged creeks ... (click for more)

Improperly Installed Fire Hydrant Causing Damage At N. Crest Road, Colyar Drive

A fire hydrant that was installed just six weeks ago left an eight-foot-deep hole in the sidewalk. It is washing out under the street and larger limestone pillar and wall at the corner of North Crest Road and Colyar Drive, Missionary Ridge. An 8' x 6' part of the sidewalk has already collapsed into the hole. It will all collapse if not repaired soon (very soon). There are already ... (click for more)

Breaking News

MTAS Report On Collegedale Police Close To Being Finished; Commissioners To Hear It In Closed Session

The report concerning Collegedale’s police department that MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service) was asked to do, is close to being finished. Honna Rogers, the city’s liaison with MTAS, has told Mayor Katie Lamb that she will be notified when it is ready. The mayor asked the commissioners how they would like to proceed when it is complete. City Attorney Sam Elliott said ... (click for more)

Information Sought Following Suspicious Weekend Fires

Investigators have determined that two fires that occurred right down the street from one another were intentionally set. The Chattanooga Fire Department was called to a shed fire in the 4000 block of Dodds Avenue around 4:20 a.m. on Sunday. They found the burning shed and as they started working to extinguish the blaze, Chattanooga Police officers alerted the ... (click for more)

Sports

Bryan Falls In Hoops Opener at University of Cumberlands

– Bryan men’s basketball paid a visit to Mid-South Conference opponent University of the Cumberlands on Monday night for their season-opener and came up just shy in a 77-70 decision that went the Patriots’ way. The early test for the Lions was no small challenge, considering the Patriots are coming off a 2018-19 campaign that included four upsets over NAIA top-25 programs and an ... (click for more)

Vols Focused On South Carolina After Holding Alabama To Its Lowest Point Total

After a hard-fought battle in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the Vols held the top-ranked Crimson Tide to its lowest point total of the season in a 35-13 loss, Tennessee is looking forward to returning to Neyland Stadium to host a late afternoon matchup with South Carolina on Saturday at 4 p.m. (ET). "Neyland Stadium has been really an electric atmosphere this whole season," head ... (click for more)