N.M. Horse Shooter to Face No Charges

A New Mexico man who posted a video on the Internet of himself shooting his horse  will not face charges, according to the District Attorney handling the case.

On March 21 a graphic video depicting Tim Sappington fatally shooting his own horse began appearing on YouTube; the same day, the video began receiving national news coverage. In the video Sappington retrieves the halter-wearing horse from its paddock and leads the animal to a spot in front of the video camera. Sappington then pets the horse, turns to the camera, and utters expletives aimed at animal welfare advocates before fatally shooting the horse in the forehead.

The New Mexico Livestock Board subsequently investigated the shooting and forwarded their findings to Chaves County District Attorney Janetta B. Hicks.

In an April 12 letter, Hicks notified Livestock Inspector Darren S. Davis that she would not be filing criminal charges in the case on grounds that the shooting did not violate New Mexico law.

In her letter, Hicks said that that while state statute forbids the malicious killing of an animal, killing livestock for the production of food in accordance with commonly accepted agricultural and animal husbandry practices is specifically excluded from the extreme animal cruelty statute.

"In this case, Mr. Sappington killed the horse for his own consumption," Hicks' letter said. "Given his personal use of the horsemeat and the apparent lack of suffering by the animal, a prosecution for extreme cruelty to animals is not viable under New Mexico law."

In her letter Hicks said that Sappingtion's "incendiary comments, as well as the abrupt manner in which he killed the animal, demonstrate insensitivity as well as poor judgment."

Sappington was unavailable for comment.

Atty. Blair Dunn, who represents the Valley Meat Co., LLC in Roswell, N.M., previously told TheHorse.com that Sappington is a former independent contractor who performed construction and maintenance services for the meat processing firm on a contract basis. Valley Meat Co. is currently awaiting an inspection permit from the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service, which would allow the placement of USDA personnel at the meat processing plant to carry out horsemeat inspections there. If granted, Valley Meat Co. would become the first U.S. facility to process horses since Congress restored funding for USDA inspections at domestic horse processing plants in 2011.

Dunn said that Hicks finding was appropriate: "Valley Meat Co. feels that Ms. Hicks correctly found that Mr. Sappington was acting within his lawful rights. We maintain that his statements made on YouTube were inflammatory and brought nothing to this important discussion we are having concerning the processing of horses as livestock."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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