(WBIR) Seven horse owners are suing the Blount County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) for $2.1 million.
They claim their horses missed an entire show season in which the animals would have been able to win prize money.
The lawsuit stems from an April 25, 2013 raid on Larry Wheelon Stables. On that date, the BCSPCA seized 19 horses from the Blount County facility over accusations that trainers used soring on the animals, a practice in which a trainer intentionally inflicts pain on a horse to enhance its high-stepping gait.
According to the lawsuit, the owners claim their horses were not returned to them them until November 2013 and at that time "it was apparent that they had been granted substandard care and were in poor condition than when they were seized on April 25, 2013". The horse owners also stated "deprivation of their personal property led to said horses never being about to return to their previous show condition or to never be able to be shown again or to have their value substantially depreciated due to the deprivation of their personal property". The horse owners are accusing the BCSPCA of "intentional, malicious, and reckless" actions.
Gino Bachman, president and senior cruelty investigator for the BCSPCA, said, "I can't say much about it except the fact that we as an agency, the SPCA, conducted ourselves within the letter of the law by doing what the law dictates us to do and that was to seize evidence, In this case it was the horses."
The horse owners also claim the horses were taken to an unknown location and the BCSPCA did not tell the owners where the horses had been taken.
Bachman said, "The owners were contacted within 72 hours of the seizure of the animals. My wife personally contacted every one of those owners by telephone. She did not notify them of where the animals were kept and that was because they were evidence and we didn't want the evidence to be tampered with."