On the heels of an undercover investigation into horse soring practices by the Humane Society of the United States, the organization is asking Tennessee’s Attorney General Reporter Robert E. Cooper, Jr. to investigate the role of horse show management in allowing sored horses to continue competing in spite of a state law criminalizing such conduct. The HSUS investigation resulted in a 52-count federal indictment against Jackie McConnell, who pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to violate the federal Horse Protection Act. At the time of the investigation, McConnell was under a five-year federal disqualification from participating in horse shows —yet continued to train horses and get them into the show ring.

“Tennessee has a good tool to improve the chances that the walking horse industry will think twice before abusing horses to cheat in these competitions,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the HSUS. “Show managers are currently either unaware of their duty to report sored horses or are thumbing their noses at the law.”

Under Tenn. law, designated persons at horse shows must:

  • Disqualify any horses found to be suffering as a result of cruel soring practices “from further participation in the show,”
  • Report “the name of the horse, the owner of the horse, and the exhibitor of the horse, to the manager or chair of the show, who in turn shall report the same in writing to the district attorney general of the judicial district wherein the incident occurred for appropriate action.”

In a letter sent to AG Cooper, the HSUS provided examples of owners, trainers and exhibitors of horses found to be sore during competition inspections who were allowed to continue competing in the shows. A long-time client of Jackie McConnell—Wilsene Moody—is a notable example. Moody’s horse Moody Star showed signs of soring at the 2009 Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration yet went on to compete and place first in two classes at the event.

Based on the failure of horse shows to exclude horses from further participation in the very horse shows where they were ticketed, it would appear horse show managers are not upholding their statutory duties and the HSUS strongly suspects the horse shows failed to report the information to the proper authorities as required by law.

AG Cooper is being urged to inform show managers of their duty to report sored horses and their owners to report to district attorneys general in accordance with state law.

Read the full letter here (PDF).

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