The Tennessee walking horse industry has come out swinging a "big lick" at the Humane Society of the United States for what one horse reform group insinuates is exploitation for fundraising.
The Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization -- TWSHO, for short -- Monday demanded the Humane Society release eight hotline abuse reports it claims they have received so that proper authorities can intervene and stop the abuse.
"If the [Humane Society] is committed to ending horse abuse as they claim, then they should stop it immediately. For far too long they have allowed horse abuse to continue so that they can sensationalize the horrific actions of a few for publicity, rather than getting rid of the soring trainers," said Jane Lynch Crain, a spokeswoman for the organization.
Soring is a short-cut and illegal training method that uses caustic chemicals and foreign objects to induce the "big lick" step in Tennessee walking horses.
Stephanie Twining, spokeswoman for the Humane Society, swatted right back at the horse groups.
"The hypocrisy is amazing," she said.
Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society president and CEO, said the horse industry should act as quickly as the Humane Society has, since the Horse Protection Act has been in place for 40 years but the past 18 months marks the first time cases have been criminally prosecuted. The evidence in several of those cases came from hidden-camera videos made by the Humane Society.
"When the [Humane Society] gets evidence of horse abuse through our tip line or other sources, you had better believe we'll act on it," Pacelle said. "Industry leaders should adopt our same zero-tolerance approach to illegal soring, and stop covering up the criminal behavior that has been so corrosive in this industry."
The newest blow-up came midway through the 11-day Celebration -- already tense with what Celebration spokeswoman Jennifer Baker termed USDA's "targeting" of horses and riders headed toward championships at the end of this week.
"What zero tolerance? The Humane Society let horses be abused for 11-straight months and did nothing while their video is being produced," Baker retorted, referring to the hidden-camera video that was released this summer on prime-time news.
The video was part of the main evidence against Collierville, Tenn., trainer Jackie McConnell. McConnell has pleaded guilty and will be sentenced Sept. 10.
"The only policy the Humane Society has is to generate publicity and money to pay their staff's high salary," Baker said. "The industry is taking tangible action and looking for partners that stop horse abuse and punish those responsible."
The horse group's offensive on the Humane Society also follows a Saturday announcement by Celebration officials that they banned convicted sorer Barney Davis from the Celebration grounds.
David Howard, a Celebration board member and president of Dabora Inc., which publishes the Walking Horse Report, wrote the following Saturday morning blog on the Walking Horse Report Web site:
"Barney Davis, who is on a lifetime suspension from SHOW, was in Champions Arena observing inspection and talking on a phone apparently to a lady with USDA who was with Dr. Rachel Cezar [USDA's Horse Protection Coordinator]. Officials are checking to see the terms of Davis' [horse industry group] suspension and whether or not he is allowed on the grounds."
Davis, 39, pleaded guilty in November and was sentenced in February. Part of his sentence requires that he cooperate with USDA and write a report or participate in a video that explains the widespread nature of soring.
Davis could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...