June 7, 2013
Additional Arrests Made in Maryville, Tenn., Horse Soring Investigation
The Humane Society of the United States Applauds Local Efforts to Prosecute All Those Complicit in Abuse
The Blount County Sheriff’s Office has served arrest warrants for two individuals suspected of violating Tennessee law against horse soring, an abusive practice involving the application of caustic chemicals and devices to the hooves and legs of Tennessee walking horses to deliberately inflict pain and force the horses to perform the artificial high-stepping ‘Big Lick’ gait for the show ring.
The sheriff’s office issued arrest warrants for Randall Stacy Gunter of Louisville, Tenn., and Brandon Lunsford of Walland, Tenn., in connection with an ongoing investigation of Maryville horse trainer Larry Joe Wheelon, who was charged in April with felony animal cruelty on suspicions of soring. Both men allegedly were involved in training horses who were seized from Wheelon’s barn by authorities on April 25. The Humane Society of the United States, along with the Blount County SPCA and Horse Haven of Tennessee, assisted authorities with the rescue of 19 horses.
The arrest warrants allege that Gunter and Lunsford worked with horses who had suffered serious bodily injuries, were discovered to have had chemicals and other foreign substances applied to their pasterns, and responded in pain when their legs were palpated by veterinarians. Additional arrests are possible, as the investigation remains on-going.
“Some of the horses were barely able to walk from the pain. Anyone who was complicit in their suffering should be held accountable—and that includes owners who may have knowingly put their horses in the hands of abusers,” said Leighann McCollum, Tennessee state director for The HSUS. “We encourage law enforcement to continue aggressively investigating anyone who participated in these cruel and illegal practices.”
The HSUS also encourages Congress to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act of 2013, H.R. 1518 strengthens the Horse Protection Act by ending industry self-policing, strengthening penalties and banning the use of certain devices associated with soring.
The HSUS offers a reward of up to $10,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of a violator of the Horse Protection Act or any state law which prohibits horse soring. Anyone with information on this cruel practice should call The HSUS’ tipline at 855-NO-SORING. The HSUS will protect the identity of all callers.
Media Contact: Stephanie Twining, 301-258-1491, firstname.lastname@example.org