Cross-posted from The Chattanoogan »
By ROY EXUM
In what was described as “a scene from some sick horror movie,” Giles County sheriff’s deputies and animal welfare officers raided the farm of known “Big Licker” Jeffery Alan Mitchell near Pulaski, Tn., last week and confiscated 55 Tennessee Walking Horses, all horribly malnourished and some that were so emaciated they could no longer walk.
By Sunday, the horses were receiving medical attention and care at several rescue facilities while Mitchell, who has quite a record of abusing horses in the past, was free on a $55,000 bond after being served with 55 counts of felony horse abuse.
According to Giles County Chief Deputy Tommy Chapman, “The animals were not in good physical health.
“Two weanlings were found in a horse trailer without food or water and Jamie Clifton, one of the rescuers, said both young horses were still in critical condition yesterday. He said, “On what we call a Body Condition Scale, with ‘1’ being skin-and-bones and ‘9’ being obese, the entire herd was ‘2’ or less. These animals are in real bad shape.
“The veterinarians have already euthanized one horse and we have immediate concerns over a couple of others, plus the weanlings,” said Clifton, who is the executive director of Volunteer Equine Advocates in Gallatin.
“We’ve taken the animals to different secure locations but it is going to be a long time before they are ‘4’ to ‘5’ on the Body Condition Scale, which is what would be normal for a Tennessee Walker.”
Many of the confiscated horses will have to be shaved, the filth in the animals’ hair now like concrete, and most were standing in a filthy mix of excrement, mud, foul hay, and dirt. There was no food anywhere and it was estimated it had been days, or weeks, since the animals had eaten. “It’s unspeakable what these horses have endured,” said Clifton. “The neglect has really taken a toll on them and we still have a couple that are too sick to transport very far.”
Mitchell, allegedly fired as a pharmacist in Pulaski following his arrest, is known for his connection with the “Big Lick” arm of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry where soring methods are used to force the animals to perform a grotesque and unnatural dance called “The Big Lick.” Mitchell was said to be enamored by the Big Lick and adored the status that came with a blue ribbon, even if it meant soring a helpless horse and much worse.
According to USDA records, Jeffery Mitchell has been ticketed four times for violating the Horse Protection Act while “Mark Mitchell,” of the same address, has violated the federal law seven times. Oddly, Jeffery and Mark were each ticketed on three horses in 2010 and 2011 – Blueberry Dollar, Mo Dollar, and Black Lining. Repeat violators often enter horses under different names, different owners, or different trainers and are rarely caught. The Mitchells’ violations included soring and shoe pads.
Mitchell was named as the breeder of a world champion Tennessee Walker, a horse named Gen’s Burning Rage. It is strongly alleged Gen was in a “rage” after being repeatedly “burned” by soring techniques. It is well-known that Mitchell was apparently so consumed by world champion Walkers he would do anything for another champion. Almost every mare confiscated last Saturday was believed to be pregnant, some in late stages. It hasn’t been determined how much damage was done to the unborn colts.
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