Horse sorers drop lawsuit against Blount County animal welfare group

Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.
Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.

BLOUNT COUNTY, TENNESSEE (Horse Soring) — You can’t make this stuff up. Who could believe it?

The Daily Times reports:

Caslon Quote Left Black Several horse owners suing a nonprofit Blount County animal welfare group over the seizure of their horses from Larry Wheelon Stables in 2013 have decided to drop their lawsuit.

Maryville attorney Rob White filed the $2.1 million lawsuit against the Blount County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) on April 25, 2014 — exactly a year after the organization seized 19 horses from a Maryville barn as part of an investigation into allegations of illegal soring practices.

The horses were returned to their owners in late 2013 after a Blount County judge threw out the original case against Wheelon and several stable workers. They were later indicted by a Blount County grand jury, but the cases were dismissed yet again.

Larry Joe Wheelon. Photo: The Daily Times.
Larry Joe Wheelon. Photo: The Daily Times.

One was thrown out due to insufficient evidence, one because the defendant died in a car crash and the two remaining cases — including the case against Wheelon — were tossed by a Blount County judge who found constitutional rights violations in the investigation.

White said his clients moved to dismiss the BCSPCA lawsuit without prejudice, meaning they have the option to refile the litigation within a year’s time.

“We’re basically wanting to back off right now and assess where we’re at and decide what action we want to take, if any,” White told The Daily Times on Wednesday.

One of the seven horse owners, Kenneth Smith, dropped his case against the BCSPCA in December. White filed a notice of voluntary dismissal July 6 on behalf of the six remaining plaintiffs, Rebecca and William Andrews, Rodney Koger, Bobbie Jo Koger, Dwight Brooks and Joe Barnes.

Wheelon and Rodney Koger were arrested earlier this year in Fentress County on numerous animal cruelty charges. The two were indicted by a Fentress County grand jury in June on 26 counts each of animal cruelty.

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This is horse soring.

Related Reading

Go here for more on Larry Wheelon »

Horse Soring

Soring is the use of chemicals, pressure or devices to cause pain to the front feet and legs of horses when they touch the ground. This results in the horses picking up their front feet higher and faster than they would do naturally. It is an abusive and prohibited practice, illegal in the U.S. under the Horse Protection Act of 1970 (HPA). It is closely associated with a unique high-stepping action of the front legs called “big lick” movement in show ring Tennessee Walking Horses.

Under normal circumstances, “big lick” action is normally created by horseshoes that have added pads and weight (sometimes called “stacks”), usually combined with additional weighted chains or rollers placed around the pasterns to create dramatic, high-stepping flashy action of the horse’s front legs, desired in the horse show ring.

Both criminal and civil penalties can be assessed against individuals who engage in soring.

Walking Horse owners sue Blount County SPCA for $2.1M

Tennessee Walking Horse rescued from accused horse sorer Larry Wheelon, Blount County, Tennessee. Image: Kathy Milani/HSUS.
Rescue worker washes down a leg of a Tennessee Walking Horse taken from accused horse sorer Larry Wheelon, Blount County, Tennessee. Image: Kathy Milani/HSUS.

AS REPORTED BY WBIR
by EVAN JOHNSON

(WBIR) — Seven horse owners are suing the Blount County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) for $2.1 million.

They claim their horses missed an entire show season in which the animals would have been able to win prize money.

The lawsuit stems from an April 25, 2013 raid on Larry Wheelon Stables. On that date, the BCSPCA seized 19 horses from the Blount County facility over accusations that trainers used soring on the animals, a practice in which a trainer intentionally inflicts pain on a horse to enhance its high-stepping gait.

According to the lawsuit, the owners claim their horses were not returned to them them until November 2013 and at that time “it was apparent that they had been granted substandard care and were in poor condition than when they were seized on April 25, 2013”. The horse owners also stated “deprivation of their personal property led to said horses never being about to return to their previous show condition or to never be able to be shown again or to have their value substantially depreciated due to the deprivation of their personal property”. The horse owners are accusing the BCSPCA of “intentional, malicious, and reckless” actions.

Gino Bachman, president and senior cruelty investigator for the BCSPCA, said, “I can’t say much about it except the fact that we as an agency, the SPCA, conducted ourselves within the letter of the law by doing what the law dictates us to do and that was to seize evidence, In this case it was the horses.”

The horse owners also claim the horses were taken to an unknown location and the BCSPCA did not tell the owners where the horses had been taken.

Bachman said, “The owners were contacted within 72 hours of the seizure of the animals. My wife personally contacted every one of those owners by telephone. She did not notify them of where the animals were kept and that was because they were evidence and we didn’t want the evidence to be tampered with.”

Source: http://www.wbir.com/story/news/local/maryville-blount/2014/04/30/horse-owners-sue-blount-county-spca-for-21-million/8531341/
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RELATED READING

1. Return of horses seized in Larry Wheelon stable raid delayed by dispute

2. Charges dropped against Tenn. horse sorer Wheelon; case may go to Grand Jury

3. Hearing reset for Blount County trainer in horse soring case

4. Nineteen sored horses seized; trainer charged with felony animal cruelty