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Valley Roundup | Burbank

3 Men Charged With Cruelty to Horse

March 17, 2000|BOBBY CUZA

The Los Angeles city attorney's office charged three people with animal cruelty Thursday for allegedly injecting a show horse with alcohol to prevent it from swishing its tail at exhibitions.

The illegal practice, known as "tail-blocking," numbs the animal's tail to make it appear better-behaved before judges, thus earning the horse extra points, authorities said.

Michael Lee Dunn and Frederick Scott Johnson, both 30, of Burbank, and veterinarian James Johnson Rushing, 52, of Jackson, Wyo., were charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty and mutilation, and administering of a drug to an exhibition animal.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Los Angeles said it received an anonymous tip in September about the chestnut quarter horse, which was stabled at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center near Burbank.

Officers found the horse had suffered an adverse reaction to the reported injection.

"The horse was in bad shape," said Madeline Bernstein, SPCA-Los Angeles president. "The tail was infected, the horse had fever, the horse was down and lethargic."

The horse, named Michelle, suffered permanent damage to its tail, she said. Johnson owned the horse, valued at $25,000, and Dunn trained it, prosecutors say.

If convicted, the men may face up to a year in prison and fines. They will be arraigned April 4 in Van Nuys Superior Court, a city attorney's spokesman said.

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