MEMPHIS - State prosecutors want to confiscate four Tennessee walking horses from owners who sent them to be trained at a Collierville stable.
The trainer, Jackie McConnell, and two others pleaded guilty in state and federal courts to charges that they beat and sored the horses to make them step higher in arena competition.
The Commercial Appeal reported that prosecutor Mike Dunavant filed a lawsuit Friday in Somerville, asking a judge to take away the horses from owners who the lawsuit contend knew or should have known that McConnell was barred by the USDA from training or exhibiting horses for shows.
"The criminal state statue specifically allows for the forfeiture of abused animals," said Dunavant. "The issue now is they knew or should have known. That's the heart of the matter."
The Humane Society of the United States shot undercover video inside McConnell's Whittler Stables that showed trainers beat a horse with a wooden club, used an electric cattle prod on the nose and hindquarters, and painted chemical compounds on the horses' legs solely for training them to compete in horse shows.
The horses are being cared for at an undisclosed location. The Humane Society is paying for their care.
Reached at her White Oak Farm in Atoka, the owner of the horse "I'm Nancy Lopez" - Lisa Marbry - said she couldn't comment about the forfeiture proceedings on her attorney's advice.
The newspaper reported the owners of the other horses are Joe Privett of Gates, Tenn., who owns "Taj Mahal," and Beverly Sherman of Dallas and her daughter, Kelly, of Boulder, Colo., who own "Paroled in the Night" and "Mucho Bueno."
The Shermans' attorney, J. Houston Gordon, said his clients had just received the complaint.
"We don't think the state has complied with the forfeiture proceedings," he said. "We also do not think that Humane Society of the United State has any standing to hold these horses. They and the state have essentially taken these horses unconstitutionally."
Fayette County Circuit Judge Weber McCraw will oversee the forfeiture lawsuit. No hearing date has been set.