Online Horse Shooting Video Prompts Cruelty Probe

Agricultural authorities in New Mexico are investigating whether a man who made a video of himself shooting his own horse should face animal cruelty charges.

On March 21 a graphic video depicting Tim Sappington of New Mexico fatally shooting his own horse began appearing on YouTube; on 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.

Blair Dunn, attorney for the Valley Meat, Co., LLC in Roswell, N.M., said that Sappington was never a full-time, regular employee of the meat processing firm. Rather, Sappington is a former independent contractor who performed construction and maintenance services for the meat processing firm on a contract basis. Valley Meat is currently seeking an inspection permit from the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service. The permit would allow the placement of USDA personnel at the processing plant to carry out horsemeat inspections there. Horse processing has not taken place in the United States since 2007, however it again became possible in November 2011 when Congress passed a federal funding bill that did not contain language specifically denying the USDA funds for horse processing plant inspections. If the permit is granted, Valley Meat, Co., would become the first U.S. facility to process horses for human consumption since the USDA funding was reinstated.

On March 22, Ray E. Baca, interim executive director of the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB) said in a written statement that the agency was investigating the incident depicted in the video.

“The New Mexico Livestock Board takes allegations of animal cruelty very seriously,” Baca said in the statement. “After becoming aware of the video yesterday, NMLB immediately began to investigate and sought a warrant to search the premises where the shooting is alleged to have occurred. NMLB and the Sherriff’s Department executed the warrant as soon as it was granted.”

Baca declined to reveal details about the probe of the shooting incident.

“The NMLB is treating this case as it does any other investigation and will not be releasing further details until the investigation is complete,” Baca’s statement said.

Sappington was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, Dunn said that the video posted on the internet was “more than a year old,” and that Valley Meat owners did not condone Sappington’s shooting of the animal. He added that the shooting was legal under New Mexico statute.

“We don’t support this kind of behavior, and there is no reason to use that kind of language,” Dunn said. “But it was his horse, on his time, at his property, and everything he did was legal.”

Dunn also said that Sappington’s contract with Valley Meats would not be renewed.

“We’re not going to have anything to do with him,” Dunn said. “He (Sappington) knows that.”

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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