By Heidi Hall / The Tennessean
Convicted animal abuser Jackie McConnell will be in his 80s before
he owns another Tennessee Walking Horse, the result of a plea agreement
that ends a year of legal trouble launched by stomach-turning undercover video.
His 20-year ban on horse ownership and training -
plus a $25,000 fine, a year of house arrest and four years probation -
was the best prosecutors could have asked for, District Attorney General
Mike Dunavant said.
"Our primary focus was to seize and protect
the abused animals and prohibit Jackie McConnell from being in a
position to abuse animals again," Dunavant said. "That's effectively a
lifetime ban. It puts him out of the walking horse training business."
Humane Society of the United States worker secretly taped McConnell,
61, beating and chemically soring horses at his Collierville, Tenn.,
stables. The practice of soring means burning their lower legs to
accentuate the breed's naturally higher, longer gait. McConnell was
sentenced in Fayette County on Tuesday after pleading guilty to 12 of 22
Last year, a federal judge in Chattanooga
sentenced him to a $75,000 fine and three years probation for conspiracy
to violate the Horse Protection Act.
The video, released in May
2012, prompted a number of changes affecting the Tennessee Walking Horse
industry. The state made horse soring a felony. Tennessee and Kentucky
congressmen began working together to strengthen the Horse Protection
Act, an effort that's continuing today and threatens to end the tall
shoes and ankle chains that mark the breed's performance class.
industry effectively excommunicated McConnell, removing him from the
Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration's Hall of Fame and banning
him from its Shelbyville, Tenn., grounds. The Celebration, held across
the two weeks leading up to Labor Day each year, instituted its own
soring tests for participants.
"It has been a remarkable case,"
said Leighann McCollum, the society's Tennessee state director. "With
the Celebration coming up in September, this sent a message to
competitors and trainers still in the industry. Even though he didn't
get jail time, this is not a light sentence.
"He won't torture horses for blue ribbons anymore."
ones McConnell tortured are now healthy and in state custody, McCollum
said, at the Humane Society's expense. With McConnell's plea comes the
start of civil proceedings to determine permanent custody for eight
horses seized from his stable. The horses named in the indictment include Mucho Bueno, Taj Mahal and Cash Sweep.
of McConnell's codefendents, Jeff Dockery and John K. Mays, pleaded
guilty in the same incident and received three and four years probation,