"Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are known throughout the industry
as the breed that shows abused and tortured horses."

~ Jim Heird, Ph.D., Do Right By The Horse, February 2010

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

NEWS, ARTICLES and HOW YOU CAN HELP - Who to Write for the Ag-Gag Bill; McConnell's Indictment Available Online

First, I know I've talked about the Ag-Gag bill before and why it's so important that we stop it in its tracks.  Thanks to Robin P. from our Facebook group, we have some folks everyone can contact.

The bill has passed the agricultural committee and is currently being reviewed by the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee.  They decide according to how it effects the current laws.  If we get these folks to stop it, then the House can't vote on it unless it's reintroduced to the agricultural committee.  So these are the emails we need to send our letters to:

Sen. Mike Bell:  sen.mike.bell@capitol.tn.gov
Sen. Stacey Campfield:  sen.stacey.campfield@capitol.tn.gov
Sen. Lowe Finney:  sen.lowe.finney@capitol.tn.gov
Sen. Ophelia For:  sen.ophelia.for@capitol.tn.gov
Sen Todd Gardenhire:   sen.todd.gardenhire@capitol.tn.gov

Let them know that passing this law criminalizes and punishes veterinarians, the media, animal welfare advocates, and the general public, who can unwittingly takes pictures at horse shows for personal purposes.

Let them also know that the law violates the Tennessee Reports Shield Law, as follows.  (Click here for more information.)  Overall, this law protects the guilty and puts the general public at risk for disease that can  correlate with abused food animals.

T.C.A. § 24-1-208
24-1-208. Persons gathering information for publication or broadcast - Disclosure.— (a) A person engaged in gathering information for publication or broadcast connected with or employed by the news media or press, or who is independently engaged in gathering information for publication or broadcast, shall not be required by a court, a grand jury, the general assembly, or any administrative body, to disclose before the general assembly or any Tennessee court, grand jury, agency, department, or commission any information or the source of any information procured for publication or broadcast.
(b) Subsection (a) shall not apply with respect to the source of any allegedly defamatory information in any case where the defendant in a civil action for defamation asserts a defense based on the source of such information.
(c)(1) Any person seeking information or the source thereof protected under this section may apply for an order divesting such protection. Such application shall be made to the judge of the court having jurisdiction over the hearing, action or other proceeding in which the information sought is pending.
(2) The application shall be granted only if the court after hearing the parties determines that the person seeking the information has shown by clear and convincing evidence that: 
(A) There is probable cause to believe that the person from whom the information is sought has information which is clearly relevant to a specific probable violation of law; 
(B) The person has demonstrated that the information sought cannot reasonably be obtained by alternative means; and 
(C) The person has demonstrated a compelling and overriding public interest of the people of the state of Tennessee in the information. 
(3(A) Any order of the trial court may be appealed to the court of appeals in the same manner as other civil cases. The court of appeals shall make an independent determination of the applicability of the standards in this subsection to the facts in the record and shall not accord a presumption of correctness to the trial court’s findings.
(B) The execution of or any proceeding to enforce a judgment divesting the protection of this section shall be stayed pending appeal upon the timely filing of a notice of appeal in accordance with Rule 3 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the appeal shall be expedited upon the docket of the court of appeals upon the application of either party.
(C) Any order of the court of appeals may be appealed to the supreme court of Tennessee as provided by law. [Acts 1973, ch. 27, §§ 1-3; T.C.A, § 24-113 - 24-115; Acts 1988, ch. 803, §§ 1, 2.]

Next, here's the excellent article by the Chattanoogan about McConnell's case.  Feel free to use a link to this case in your emails to the Senators listed above--this is proof of why the Ag-Gag bill needs to die.  The Chattanoogan's article is posted below - click here for the article.

Here's the link to the indictment.  You can read the 22 counts, which I've also posted on this blog before.  WARNING: the description of what was done to these horses can be disturbing.  And note also that the two of the owners of the horses were right there, watching this the whole time.

I don't think I can thank the HSUS enough for seizing the eight horses that were abused and for continuing to care for them.  I wish there were some way to bring charges against the owners of those horses...perhaps that's something we'll learn more about in the future.  For now, I'm glad those horses are safe.


Tennessee Grand Jury Indicts Former Tennessee Walking Horse Trainer Jackie McConnell
Monday, April 01, 2013

A Fayette County, Tn., Grand Jury has indicted horse trainer Jackie McConnell and two co-defendants on 38 counts of animal cruelty for illegally soring and torturing horses.

The indictments followed a Humane Society of the United States undercover investigation in 2011.

McConnell was indicted on 22 counts of animal cruelty in Fayette County, for charges stemming from alleged soring of Tennessee Walking Horses.

McConnell is already serving three years of probation and has been fined $75,000 for his federal felony conviction in Chattanooga.

“We commend District Attorney General Mike Dunavant and Assistant District Attorney General Mark Davidson for filing criminal charges against McConnell and his co-defendants —the first case of its kind in Tennessee,” Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The HSUS. “Unfortunately, the owners who placed their horses in McConnell’s training stables have not expressed the slightest regret or remorse for the torture these animals endured, and still need to be held accountable.”

McConnell’s co-defendants in the federal case, John Mays and Jeff Dockery were also indicted. Mays was charged with 13-counts and Dockery with three-counts. Both men pleaded guilty to lesser charges in Federal Court for their role in the conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act.

Since 2011, the HSUS has assisted the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General, and the Tennessee 25th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office in prosecuting the offenders and assisting in the rescue of horses from McConnell’s training operation.

 In March 2012, eight horses were seized from McConnell’s stable following the execution of a search and seizure warrant. At the state’s request, the HSUS has been providing the horses with intensive rehabilitative care for the past year and will continue to do so.

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