In the News: ‘Tennesse Walking Horse abuser’s legal saga wraps with guilty plea’

Punishment was doled out yesterday to Jackie McConnell, who was shown beating and chemically soring horses in an undercover HSUS video.

Here is the video, which was released in May of last year and widely circulated in the  media:

Fortunately, McConnell’s horse career is now over.

From The Tennessean:

Convicted animal abuser Jackie McConnell will be in his 80s before he owns another Tennessee Walking Horse, the result of a plea agreement that ends a year of legal trouble launched by stomach-turning undercover video.

His 20-year ban on horse ownership and training — plus a $25,000 fine, a year of house arrest and four years probation — was the best prosecutors could have asked for, District Attorney General Mike Dunavant said.

“Our primary focus was to seize and protect the abused animals and prohibit Jackie McConnell from being in a position to abuse animals again,” Dunavant said. “That’s effectively a lifetime ban. It puts him out of the walking horse training business.”

McConnell, a 61-year-old resident of Colliersville, Tenn., has been removed from the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration’s Hall of Fame and banned from its Shelbyville, Tenn., grounds. Additionally, last year a federal judge in Chattanooga sentenced him to a $75,000 fine and three years probation for conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act.

Co-defendants Jeff Dockery of Collierville, Tenn. and John K. Mays of Holly Springs, Miss., also entered guilty pleas. Dockery was sentenced to three years’ probation, and Mays received four years’ probation.

The sentences–a far cry from the “slap on the wrist” punishments of years past–symbolize an laudable victory against Tennessee Walking Horse abuse. But, certainly, the fight is far from over.

While TWH industry leaders agree that soring is unacceptable, the testing procedures they have in place don’t seem to be fixing the problem. Which gives rise to a flood of new questions: What are acceptable standards, and what’s the best way to test for them? Are just the trainers to blame, or the owners as well? What’s a fair punishment? Who should conduct the tests? Is the industry capable of policing itself or should it be the responsibility of the USDA, enforcer of the Horse Protection Act? And, last but not least, who is going to pay for it all?

Cleary, the process must NOT evolve into a witch hunt, accusing every person who owns a TWH of soring their horse, because that is ABSOLUTELY not the case. But when individuals do cross that line, they need to be punished within the extent of the law, as McConnell was in court yesterday. It was a benchmark day for horse welfare that hopefully sent a message to competitors and trainers still in the industry.

Go TWHs, and Go Riding.

Sources: The Tennessean, Examiner, Chattanoogan, WBIR

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