SLIDESHOW: USDA seizes 19 horses from Tennessee walking horse trainer in raid

Larry Wheelon charged with aggravated animal cruelty relating to soring.
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May 09, 2013

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Larry Wheelon, a well-known member of the Tennessee walking horse circuit, was arrested and charged April 25 with one felony count of aggravated cruelty to livestock related to soring. The USDA veterinarian present for the raid found 19 of his 27 horses were sore. More charges—possibly one felony count for each sore horse—are expected.



Photo courtesy of the Blounty County, Tenn., Sheriff's Office

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The Blount County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), assisted by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), executed a search warrant that led to Wheelon’s arrest and the seizure of 19 horses from a barn in Maryville, Tenn. The owner of the barn served Wheelon with a detainer warrant May 2 listing “legal issues related to the care of animals” in order to remove him from the property and begin the legal process of eviction.

Photo courtesy of the HSUS

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According to an affidavit from the Blount County General Sessions Court, investigators found during an April 18 search that Wheelon's horses had their legs wrapped in cellophane and leg wraps, which is indicative of chemical soring. Several containers of chemicals, including mustard oil, were removed from the property, according to the affidavit.

Photo courtesy of the HSUS

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Wheelon's arrest is the second high-profile felony soring case in the Tennessee walking horse circuit. Recently, Jackie McConnell, a fellow Tennessee walking horse trainer, was indicted on 22 counts related to animal cruelty, including the torture and soring of horses in Fayette County, Tenn.Wheelon is a member of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association board of directors and a AAA-rated judge with S.H.O.W. Horse Inspection Organization. He has also reportedly been cited for numerous violations of the federal Horse Protection Act during the past 20 years.



Photo courtesy of the HSUS

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The affidavit states that substances could be seen on the horses’ legs and a chemical odor was detected. Gino Bachman, president of the Blount County SPCA, says lab tests have already confirmed the presence of caustic chemicals on the horses. Wheelon maintains his innocence claiming he was framed.



Photo courtesy of the HSUS