Three individuals have pleaded guilty to charges related to violations of the Horse Protection Act after exhibiting sored horses and attempting to camouflage the sores with a magic marker, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Inspector General announced this week.
Jackie McConnell and his wife owned Whitter Stables in Collierville, Tenn., and employed John Mays and Joseph Abernathy as assistants, grooms and farriers. According to his plea agreement, McConnell conspired with Mays, Abernathy and other individuals to violate the Horse Protection Act, a federal law that makes it a crime to exhibit horses whose feet have been deliberately injured in order to accentuate the horse’s gait, otherwise known as sored horses.
Despite being on suspension from entering horses into exhibits, McConnell continued to sore, transport, enter and show the animals at horse shows. Specifically, McConnell would use illegal soring methods, including the application of chemicals to the horses’ lower legs which resulted in burns on the animals. To cover up the burns, McConnell would instruct others to apply magic markers and other masking materials to disguise the horses’ injuries. He would also arrange for other individuals to show the horse at the exhibits while he remained on the grounds outside the warm-up areas.
The Humane Society of the United States initially conducted an undercover investigation. The USDA Office of Inspector General and Federal Bureau of Investigation performed the follow-up investigation and executed the search warrants of McConnell’s stables and barn.
Sentencing for the three individuals will be held September 10, 2012, in U.S. District Court, Chattanooga. McConnell faces a maximum five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, supervised release for up to three years and a $100 special assessment, DOJ said. Mays and Abernathy face a maximum one year in prison, a $3,000 fine, supervised release for up to one year, and a $25 special assessment.