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April 27, 2011

The HSUS Applauds the USDA and Justice Department for Obtaining Horse Soring Abuse Indictment under the Federal Horse Protection Act

UPDATE: Justice Department Obtains Additional Conspiracy and Financial Crimes Indictments in Tennessee Horse Soring Abuse Case

(April 27, 2011)—The U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Knoxville, Tenn., filed a superseding indictment, charging four Tennessee residents with additional violations of the federal Horse Protection Act and related financial crimes. A federal grand jury in Chattanooga returned the 34-count superseding indictment on Tuesday, adding Paul Blackburn, 35, of Shelbyville, Tenn., to the conspiracy, and levying additional fraud, wire fraud and money laundering counts against Barney Davis, 38, of Lewisburg, Tenn., and Christen Altman, 25, of Shelbyville, Tenn.

According to the U.S. Attorney, some of the alleged conduct of the defendants constitutes federal felonies, if convicted. The defendants have not appeared in court for arraignment on the new charges.

“The Humane Society of the United States applauds this development in the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act,” said Keith Dane, director of Equine Protection for The HSUS. “These additional charges demonstrate to the gaited show horse industry that abuse and misconduct will not be tolerated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Justice Department, and that horse soring allegations will be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted.”

The press release below was originally issued on March 24, 2011 

The Humane Society of the United States applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Justice Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Knoxville, Tenn., for obtaining an indictment against three individuals charged with conspiring to violate the federal Horse Protection Act. The Tennessee residents are to be arraigned on the charges before a federal magistrate in Chattanooga today.

Congress enacted the Horse Protection Act in 1970, making it a federal offense to show, sell, auction, and exhibit or transport a sored horse, or a horse whose hooves have been chemically or physically altered to inflict pain that causes an exaggerated gait common among show Tennessee Walking Horses and other gaited breeds.

“This decision sends a clear message to anyone who sores a gaited show horse that the U.S. Department of Agriculture can and will take allegations of violations of the Horse Protection Act seriously,” said Keith Dane, director of Equine Protection for The Humane Society of the United States. “We hope this indictment signals a renewed U.S.D.A. resolve to prosecute alleged abusers of Tennessee Walking Horses and other victims of soring.”

Dane, who has been tracking the issue of horse soring for more than 25 years, said that alleged violators of the Horse Protection Act are rarely indicted on charges.  Despite more than 40 years of Horse Protection Act enforcement, the lack of an effective deterrent against soring has allowed the widespread practice to continue. From 2007 to 2009, U.S.D.A. veterinarians found an average of nearly 500 violations of the law per year – even though they attended only about 6 percent of all shows at which Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds were exhibited due to limited agency resources.

On Friday, a federal grand jury in Chattanooga returned a four-count indictment against Barney Davis, 38, of Lewisburg, Tenn.; Christen Altman, 25, of Shelbyville, Tenn.; and Jeffery Bradford, 33, of Lewisburg. According to the indictment, Davis, Altman, and Bradford have all been charged with conspiring to violate the federal Horse Protection Act by “soring” horses and deliberately falsifying entry forms and additional related paperwork. Davis was additionally charged  by indictment with knowingly shipping and transporting a sore horse, Jose is My Daddy, for show, and with entering the same sore horse into a show—both violations of the Horse Protection Act. The U.S.D.A.-Office of Inspector General investigation into the alleged crimes began in August 2010.

USDA-Office of Inspector General Special-Agent–in-Charge Karen Citizen-Wilcox said in a department-issued press release, “The USDA-OIG will continue to aggressively pursue violations of the Horse Protection Act in order to protect horses and competitors from illegal and unfair acts and practices.”

Soring is the practice of applying chemical irritants to burn skin or inserting screws or other foreign objects into the sensitive areas of a horse’s hooves, causing severe pain to the front legs or feet. Because of the pain, horses raise their front legs immediately after touching the ground, thus producing the exaggerated gait rewarded in show rings of the Tennessee Walking  Horse and other gaited breeds. Horses who are sored often live in constant and extreme pain, unable to stand or move comfortably.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org 

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