Justice and Paul Blackburn

Here is how The Humane Society of the United States answers the question of why soring persists even though the Horse Protection Act outlawed it. “From the beginning, underfunding and political pressure from industry insiders have plagued USDA’s enforcement of the HPA. Lack of adequate funding prevents the USDA from sending agency officials to every Tennessee and Racking Horse show. As a result, they have instituted a system that allows horse industry organizations (HIOs) to train and license their own inspectors, known as Designated Qualified Persons (DPQs), to examine horses at shows for signs of soring. With the exception of a few HIOs who are committed to ending soring, most of the HIOs are made up of industry insiders who have a clear stake in preserving the status quo” www.humanesociety.org/issues/tenn_walking_horses/facts/what_is_soring.html.To make matters worse, when perpetrators get caught, they seldom receive the punishment they deserve. Here is a case in point. Paul Blackburn, Jeffery Bradford, and Christen Altman were employed by Barney Davis at his Hidden Creek Farms in Lewisburg, Tennessee, where they sored horses and practiced other illegalities. In a seven-month investigation, a smart agent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture collected enough evidence to indict and convict them all. At the sentencing of Blackburn, he said, “I know what I done was wrong. I am very sorry for it.” His attorney argued that Blackburn shouldn’t go to jail because he is the father of six children and the family would suffer. The judge listened. Blackburn’s final punishments were these: one year of probation, a $1000 penalty, and an assignment to write an article about soring to be published in the local paper. After the sentencing, Blackburn, as reported in a number of newspapers, said “he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”  In the wrong place to get caught? This doesn’t square with his courtroom apology. Notably, both the judge and one of the two U.S. attorneys said they didn’t know about horse soring before taking over the case. The judge even said that more people should know about soring. I hope that the February sentencing of the others will be as stringent as the law allows, seeing that video evidence shows a plate and bolt being inserted in a horse’s foot.
And the future of justice for sorers looks dim. Bill Killian, U.S. Attorney, said that “the case, along with the government’s 2011 case in Middle Tennessee against Chris Zahnd, 45, of Trinity, Alabama, who was sentenced in November to two years of probation, are the first criminal prosecutions of Horse Protection Act violations nationally in about 20 years.”
To tell the truth, I don’t expect the other three defendants to be sentenced severely enough for what they did. The Tennessee cruelty to animals laws are too weak. And some people claim that since horses are still classified in Tennessee law as “livestock” rather than “animal,” the latter defined as “a domesticated living creature or a wild creature previously captured,” those who torture gaited horses in the state will never be punished even adequately for what they did.
Special thanks to Bill Poovey, whose article I depended on for this posting, and which was reprinted in a number of newspapers.
Next posting: Friends of Sound Horses

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