A nationally recognized walking horse trainer, McConnell is now notorious for horse abuse following a federal felony conviction for conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act. McConnell was indicted on 22 counts of animal cruelty for charges stemming from shocking footage captured by an HSUS investigator of McConnell and his associates. The video shows them brutally beating, shocking, and using painful chemicals on the horses’ legs in a cruel practice known as “soring.” Soring is the method trainers use to force Tennessee walking horses to perform the exaggerated, artificial gait known as the ‘Big Lick.’
McConnell is serving 3 years probation and has been fined $75,000 for his federal felony conviction.
“We commend District Attorney General Mike Dunavant and Assistant District Attorney General Mark Davidson for filing criminal charges against McConnell and his co-defendants – the first case of its kind in Tennessee,” Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The HSUS. “Unfortunately, the owners who placed their horses in McConnell’s training stables have not expressed the slightest regret or remorse for the torture these animals endured, and still need to be held accountable.”
McConnell’s co-defendants in the federal case, John Mays, and Jeff Dockery were also indicted. Mays was charged with 13-counts and Dockery with 3-counts. Both men pleaded guilty to lesser charges in federal court for their role in the conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act.
Since 2011, The HSUS has assisted authorities in the prosecution and rescue of horses from McConnell’s training operation. In March 2012, eight horses were seized from his stable following the execution of a search and seizure warrant. At the state’s request, the HSUS continues to provide the horses with intensive rehabilitative care.