Tennessee men Barney Davis, 39, of Lewisburg, Christen Altman, 26, of Shelbyville, and Jeffery Bradford, 33, of Lewisburg, were sentenced for admitted soring violations on Monday by US District Court Judge Harry Mattice in Chattanooga.
At sentencing, Davis described mechanical devices and chemical irritants used to sore horses and showed Mattice examples of chains, bolts, blocks, and eight-pound tungsten shoes used to cause a gaited horse to adopt an exaggerated gait for the show ring.
He stressed the pervasiveness of soring in the gaited horse industry and testified that horses "have got to be sored to 'walk'," referring to the exaggerated gait displayed in the show ring.
Altman and Bradford were sentenced to 12 months probation, and ordered to pay a $US1000 fine. As part of their probation, Altman and Bradford were ordered to write an article describing the types of methods used to sore horses, the immediate and long-term effects of soring on horses, the types of individuals who seek out trainers who sore horses in their community, and how widespread soring is in the gaited horse industry.
Davis was sentenced to serve 12 months and one day in prison and pay a $US4000 fine.
Upon his release from prison, he will serve three years supervised release. He was also ordered to either write an article or co-operate in the production of an educational video describing horse soring methods and their effects on the horses, how widespread the practice is in the industry, and demonstrating how inspectors can better detect sored horses.
Davis, Altman, and Bradford all pleaded guilty on November 8, 2011, to various violations of the Horse Protection Act. Davis also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit witness tampering in this case
The indictments and subsequent convictions were the result of a seven-month investigation by the US Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG) agent Julie McMillan.
The office has the authority to investigate criminal violations of the Horse Protection Act, including allegations related to soring and false entries or statements.
US Attorneys Steve Neff and Kent Anderson represented the United States.
This case, along with the Chris Zahnd case in the Middle District of Tennessee, are the first two criminal prosecutions of Horse Protection Act violations in about 20 years.
As set forth at the time the original indictment was returned, Special Agent-in-Charge Karen Citizen-Wilcox said: "The USDA-OIG will continue to aggressively pursue violations of the Horse Protection Act in order to protect horses and competitors from illegal and unfair acts and practices."
US Attorney Bill Killian said: "The crimes committed by these individuals are examples of widespread problems in the equine industry that give unfair and illegal advantage to some competitors over others, in addition to causing extreme pain to the animals.
"This issue has our attention and we will continue to pursue violators of the Horse Protection Act to assure fairness in competition and to protect the welfare of the horses that are a symbol of our state."