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