Horse Trainer Pleads Guilty to Animal Abuse

Hall of Fame trainer caught on camera beating horse in "Nightline" report.

ByABC News
July 11, 2013, 11:25 AM

July 11, 2013 — -- A former hall of fame Tennessee Walking Horse trainer caught on tape beating horses with wooden sticks and shocking them with electric cattle prods has pleaded guilty to 22 counts of animal cruelty, the latest blow to a high-money sport that's been a target for animal rights activists.

Jackie McConnell was shown in undercover video on ABC News' "Nightline" last May physically abusing horses in his stables and overseeing his assistants as they applied caustic chemicals to the horses' ankles in an act known as "soring."

WATCH: Video Reveals Torture of Horses Trained to Win Championships

McConnell pleaded guilty this week and was sentenced to one year of house arrest, a $25,000 fine and will be prohibited from owning or training horses for 20 years in Tennessee.

"His ability to profit from the pain he inflicted on the animals placed in his care was halted," said the Humane Society of the United States, which shot the undercover video.

The charges were brought in Tennessee circuit court after ABC News aired the video. McConnell had previously pleaded guilty to one federal count related to the conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act.

Following the "Nightline" investigation, the Walking Horse Trainers Association suspended McConnell's training license indefinitely. Sponsors, including Pepsi, also pulled out of the annual Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, the sport's largest competition.

McConnell's two co-defendants, who were his employees at the time the undercover tape was made, also pleaded guilty to 17 counts of animal cruelty and were sentenced to probation.

District Attorney General Mike Dunavant told the Tennessean newspaper that the sanctions purposefully prevented McConnell from ever being able to abuse horses again saying, "That's effectively a lifetime ban."

"It puts him out of the walking horse training business," Dunavant reportedly said.

Last year ABC News attempted to speak with McConnell, but he declined to comment on the undercover video.

The Humane Society has called on Congress to pass a pending bill that would increase penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act and ban implements used to sore horses.

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