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September 18, 2012

Federal Court Sentences Former Tennessee Walking Horse Trainer Jackie McConnell

The HSUS calls for support for a stronger Horse Protection Act

Media can download extended video footage from the investigation.

Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement in response to the sentence of three years probation and a $75,000 fine handed down to Jackie McConnell, the notorious horse trainer who was at the center of an undercover investigation by The HSUS into the shocking abuse of Tennessee walking horses:

“Like many others in the Tennessee walking horse industry, Jackie McConnell has a long history of abusing horses for the sake of a blue ribbon and the profits that go along with it. He and his associates were caught on tape using painful chemicals on horses’ legs, and whipping, kicking, and shocking them in the face—all to force them to perform the unnatural 'Big Lick' gait in competitions. The Humane Society of the United States is grateful that the U.S. Attorney took on this important case and sent a message that soring will not be tolerated. It was our hope that McConnell would do prison time for these terrible crimes, but there are gaps in the federal law that need to be strengthened.”

Tell Congress to strengthen the Horse Protection Act »

We're fighting for a stronger law to protect horses

In the wake of the McConnell case, The HSUS has worked with a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers on the introduction of legislation to strengthen the Horse Protection Act (H.R. 6388, the Horse Protection Act Amendments of 2012). We are calling on Congress to take action on the legislation in the lame duck session of Congress. The bill simply fortifies the current law, and the only reason anyone in the walking horse industry would oppose this legislation is if they want to continue to sore horses.

What is "soring"?

"Soring" refers to the methods used by trainers to deliberately inflict pain on Tennessee walking horses' hooves and legs to exaggerate their high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. They use caustic chemicals, chains, hoof knives and grinders, sharp objects, weighted shoes, and other gruesome devices and techniques that make it hurt for the horse to step down

More ways to protect Tennessee walking horses »

McConnell and two others are also scheduled to appear in court later this month to face 31 counts of violating Tennessee’s state animal cruelty statute. The HSUS will continue to follow this and other cases of soring and keep you informed—come back to this site for updates.

Facts:

  • Although the Horse Protection Act was signed into law more than 40 years ago, the systematic abuse of Tennessee walking horses continues unabated. Trainers have devised a gruesome array of techniques to make it painful for these majestic horses to step down, so they will lift their front legs extremely high in the prize-winning, unnatural gait known as “the Big Lick.”

  • The state and federal charges against McConnell and his associates follow another recent federal criminal prosecution involving the practice of horse soring. In November 2011, former trainer Barney Davis pleaded guilty to violations of the Horse Protection Act. He was sentenced by a federal judge to serve more than a year in prison. Watch an exclusive HSUS video of Davis describing techniques used to sore horses »

  • A 2010 USDA Office of Inspector General audit exposed how players in the walking horse industry work to evade detection, rather than comply with federal law and train horses humanely. The audit stated that the USDA needs more funding for full enforcement of the Act, and recommended stiffer penalties for violators and the abolishment of the industry’s failed system of self-enforcement.

  • H.R. 6388, the Horse Protection Act Amendments of 2012, co-sponsored by Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Jim Moran, D-Va., will end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of certain devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all those involved in this cruel practice.

Media Contact: Stephanie Twining, 240-751-3943, stwining@humanesociety.org

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