Bill and Sandra Johnson Suspended by the USDA for Violation of the Horse Protection Act

Champion Tennessee Walking Horse breeders fined and suspended for one year by USDA for soring and showing JFK All Over

SHELBYVILLE, TN (March 31, 2011) – The Int’l Fund for Horses report that William B. (Bill) Johnson and Sandra Johnson are suspended from being involved in “any show or event” for one year by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for violations of the Horse Protection Act in connection with the “soring” and showing of Tennessee Walking Horse champion “JFK All Over” at the 30th Annual Spring Fun Show in Shelbyville, Tennessee, in May of 2000.

The Horse Protection Act is a Federal law that prohibits horses subjected to a practice called soring from participating in shows, sales, exhibitions, or auctions.

Soring is the illegal practice of deliberately causing pain on the front legs or feet of a horse to create an exaggerated, high-stepping gait to gain a competitive edge and win ribbons in the show ring. A variety of cruel and devious methods are used to sore horses. Soring includes painting caustic chemicals on a horse’s pasterns and then wrapping the legs in plastic to “cook” into the flesh, or pressure shoeing with a foreign object such as screws or bolts, or half of a golf ball.

In addition to the one-year suspension by the USDA that began January 21, 2011, Bill and Sandra Johnson each are ordered to pay a $1,000.00 fine.

As CEO of W. B. Johnson International, Bill Johnson, made his fortune as the largest Waffle House franchisee in the US. Johnson also acquired the rights to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company name in 1983 and expanded the hotel throughout the world, eventually selling those operations to Marriott International.

As the Ritz grew, Johnson poured equal passion into a new hobby, Tennessee Walking Horses. “In the early ’90s, he purchased a horse or two, and the next thing you know, he went on a run and he wanted to own the finest,” said David Kranich, advertising director at Voice of the Tennessee Walking Horse magazine, in 2002.

Bill and Sandra Johnson are current owners of Waterfall Farms where they breed world class champion Tennessee Walking Horses such as 1999 Two-Year-Old World and Reserve World Grand Champion “JFK All Over,” the horse at the center of the Johnsons’ one-year USDA suspension and penalties. “JFK All Over”, who has 10 Championship career wins, entered the breeding shed for the Johnsons where he is in stellar company. According to Waterfall Farms’ website, they have 18 Stallions who altogether have accumulated at least 182 world class champion Tennessee Walking Horse titles.

“Bill and Sandra Johnson are a major influence in the Tennessee Walking Horse community in both breeding and showing,” states Vivian Grant, President of the Int’l Fund for Horses. “The penalty and suspension issued against the Johnsons by the USDA is particularly significant, and sends a clear message that soring will be punished, no matter what your stature,” she adds.

The latest enforcement of the Horse Protection Act involving Bill and Sandra Johnson by the USDA is not the first. Waterfall Farms and the Johnsons each were fined $6,600.00 in February 2009 for entering and showing sored Tennessee Walking Horse Champion “John FK’s Pusher” in the 33rd Annual National Walking Horse Trainers Show, but not suspended from competing. The Johnsons were, however, ordered to “cease and desist from violating the Act.”

Proceedings against Bill and Sandra Johnson for the soring and showing of Tennessee Walking Horse “JFK All Over” were instituted following a complaint filed by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency (APHIS).

“APHIS’ ultimate goal in enforcing the Horse Protection Act is to eliminate soring,” states Dave Sacks, spokesman for the agency. “We will continue to work with the horse industry to protect against this inhumane practice and thereby ensure that only sound and healthy horses participate in shows, exhibits and sales.”

For more information on APHIS’ enforcement of the HPA, please go to

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PDF (this document)

Bill and Sandra Johnson Suspended by the USDA for Violation of the Horse Protection Act, pdf

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• USDA – APHIS Horse Protection Act Fact Sheet

Click to access faq_rev_horsep.pdf

• USDA Horse Protection Act Disqualifications and Civil Penalties List as of March 2011

Click to access USDA-HPA-SUSPENSIONS-MAR2011.pdf

• Consent Decision and Order HPA 01-0127; William B Johnson and Sandra Johnson, Respondents; Feb 2, 2011

Click to access 110202_HPA-01-0127_CD_WilliamBJohnsonandSandraJohnson.pdf

• Consent Decision and Order HPA 01-0030; William B and Sandra T Johnson, Respondents; Feb. 2, 2009

Click to access 090210_HPA-01-0030_CD_WilliamBJohnsonandSandraTJohnson.pdf

• “Bill Johnson – From From a Franchisee of Waffle House to Owner of Boston Ritz-Carlton”, by Caroline Wilbert,
The Atlanta Constitution-Journal, Dec. 15, 2002 (

• List of Stallions with Career Wins, Waterfall Farms

Click to access Waterfall_Farms_Stallion_Championships.pdf


“Tennessee Walking Horse farm owners suspended”
by Pat Raia
The Horse
Apr. 5, 2011

“Tennessee Walking Horse bigwigs suspended on abuse claims”
by Brandon Gee
The Tennessean
Apr. 1, 2011

“Waterfall owners suspended over alleged violations”
by Brian Mosely
Shellbyville Times-Gazette
Mar. 31, 2011

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Mustang Anthem “Wild Horses Need Our Voices” to debut at Las Vegas rally

LAS VEGAS, NV (Oct 6, 2010) — Las Vegas-based country rock band Grey Beard Bandit who wrote and recorded “Wild Horses Need Our Voices” will debut the stirring, awareness-raising anthem live in Las Vegas on Columbus Day at a free concert at Horseman’s Park.

Due to escalated roundups conducted by federal agency Bureau of Land Management (BLM), there are now more wild horses in government holding pens than on the public lands set aside by law for their preservation. Advocates, alarmed at their dwindling numbers, are fearful the massive removals will ultimately lead to the extinction of the nation’s Mustangs.

Grey Beard Bandit will perform “Wild Horses Need Our Voices” live for the first time during a free concert and wild horse rally being staged on Columbus Day, October 11, 2010, 3 to 6 pm at Horseman’s Park, Las Vegas, Nevada.

“We need to leave these horses alone. They are now an endangered species because of what the BLM has done to them,” says Bill Wakefield, who wrote “Wild Horses Need Our Voices”. “I wrote the song because I feel if Americans only knew, they would rally around and protect these iconic horses.”

“It is a great song with a great message,” says Vivian Farrell, President of the Int’l Fund for Horses. “Please come out, listen to the song, and give your voices to these living symbols of American freedom.”

“Wild Horses Need Our Voices” is available for download on iTunes and Amazon MP3. Get the song. Join the cause.

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Grey Beard Bandit performing "Wild Horses Need Our Voices" live at wild horse rally in Las Vegan, Nevada on October 11, 2010. Credit: The Horse Fund. (click to enlarge).
Grey Beard Bandit performing “Wild Horses Need Our Voices” live at wild horse rally in Las Vegan, Nevada on October 11, 2010. Credit: The Horse Fund. (click to enlarge).


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Horse slaughter is criminal again in Texas

New Orleans, Louisiana (Jan. 20, 2007) — Horse slaughter is criminal again in the Lone Star State.

A three-judge appellate panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana, ruled unanimously yesterday that horse slaughter plants operating in Texas will face criminal charges if they slaughter horses for human consumption.

The ruling overturned the decision handed down in 2005 by Texas Federal Judge Terry Means in favor of foreign-owned Beltex of Fort Worth, and Dallas Crown, Inc. of Kaufman, who in 2002 filed for injunctive relief from a state law dating back to 1949 prohibiting the slaughter of horses for human consumption, stating that the state law interfered with federal trade regulations.

The two Texas horse slaughter plants have two options. They can either call for a hearing or apply for an appeal with the Supreme Court. It is highly unlikely they would have any success.

Elimination of horse slaughter in Texas leaves one horse meat plant in operation, Cavel International in DeKalb, Illinois.

According to USDA records, more than 100,000 horses were slaughtered in 2006 for their meat in the Texas and Illinois plants.

“Closing the horse slaughter plants in Texas will save 50,000 to 60,000 equines from a brutal and terrifying death this year alone,” states Vivian Farrell, President of Houston-based Int’l Fund for Horses.

“This ruling, however, does not ban horse slaughter in the states where it is not illegal, nor does it prohibit the trade of our horses across U.S. borders where horses are routinely slaughtered for the foreign meat market,” adds Farrell. “A federal mandate against horse slaughter is imperative to bring it to a full end for US horses.”

Federal legislation banning horse slaughter and export for slaughter was introduced simultaneously in the House and Senate on January 17, 2007. The bill numbers are H.R. 503 and S. 311, respectively.

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(800 x 600; click to enlarge)

Horses awaiting slaughter, Dallas Crown holding pen, Kaufman, Texas.
Horses awaiting slaughter, Dallas Crown holding pen, Kaufman, Texas.
Offal from slaughter horses, Dallas Crown, Kaufman, Texas.
Offal from slaughter horses, Dallas Crown, Kaufman, Texas.

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Horse Slaughter threatens property rights of owners

HOUSTON, Texas (November 9, 2006) — Horses obtained through theft, fraud, and at auctions by killer buyers result in horses never intended for slaughter routinely ending up at the nation’s three horse slaughter plants where they are butchered for human consumption overseas. The passage of a federal bill currently pending before Congress banning horse slaughter will protect owners from losing their horses in this grisly fashion.

Texas has the highest incidence of horses reported stolen in the United States. To help prevent horse thefts, the 1997 Texas Legislature empowered the Texas & Southwest Cattle Ranchers Association (TSCRA) to place brand inspectors at Texas horse slaughter plants. Cavel International in Illinois is not required to have any brand inspectors.

Data gathered by Stolen Horse International (, the largest organization that assists owners in the recovery of stolen horses, shows approximately 6 out of 10 horses stolen are killed at slaughter plants.

In a statement by Jody Henderson, director of brand inspection for the TSCRA, she states that “horse traders will travel from all over the United States to buy and sell horses; this scenario [horse slaughter] is a quick way for thieves to remove stolen property from their possession and into the market.”

Even when it is discovered that a horse stolen or obtained through fraud was sent to a slaughtering facility, it is often too late to save them. Incidents of recovering these horses are rare as horses are normally killed within hours of their arrival.

The TSCRA receives $3 for every horse slaughtered in Texas and after nearly a decade in providing brand inspections does not have a single documented case of a stolen horse ever being recovered before slaughter. However, there are many instances of owners identifying their stolen horses after they were killed.

In April 2005, it was reported that 41 of America’s wild mustangs were slaughtered at Cavel International Inc. in DeKalb, Illinois. A further 52 scheduled for slaughter were spared when the Bureau of Land Management intervened. Wild horses and burros are clearly freeze branded.

“It is obvious that brand inspections are not effective,” observes Vivian Farrell, President of the Int’l Fund for Horses based in Houston, Texas. “Statements made that horses are inspected and checked against stolen horse reports by on-site law enforcement officials before they are slaughtered are grossly misleading.”

Theft is not the only threat to horse owners. Horses obtained through fraud are also delivered for slaughter to plants operating in the U.S., or shipped across the border to Canada to horse slaughter plants there. Unscrupulous horse traders place ads fronting as rescue organizations offering to take horses and find an adoptive home for them. The horses are picked up and trailered, not to a rescue facility, but to local auctions and placed in killpens. Others are taken directly to a slaughter facility. Horse slaughter plants pay 15 to 30 cents a pound, depending on the condition of the horse.

Senator Cornyn of Texas, where two of the three horse slaughter plants operate, and who has been openly hostile to a federal bill to ban horse slaughter, asserts that banning horse slaughter interferes with a horse owner’s right to dispose of their private property any way they wish to.

“This bill doesn’t interfere with a property owner’s rights. It protects those who don’t wish their horses to be disposed of in such a way,” states Farrell.

Available records indicate that only a handful of the 2,000 plus horses butchered each week at U.S. horse slaughter plants are “walk ins.” “If horse slaughter plants are providing a service, why are such a minute number of horses taken directly to plants by their owners?” Farrell asks.

Horse slaughter plants rely almost entirely on killer buyers to provide them with young, healthy horses to meet production quotas.

“The existence of horse slaughter is a threat to the property rights of horse owners and should be made illegal,” adds Farrell. “Passage of the bill currently pending before Congress banning the slaughter of our horses will eliminate that threat and protect the private property rights of horse owners,” Farrell concludes.

The bill to ban horse slaughter passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 263-146. It now awaits a similar vote in the Senate. Congress reconvenes November 13.

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Radnofsky offers support for horses

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, rival for Texan Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat in the US Senate, calls for her opponent to take a stand on horse slaughter

Barbara Ann Radnofsky
Barbara Ann Radnofsky

Houston, Texas (Oct. 15, 2006) – Barbara Ann Radnofsky, Texas Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, took a stand on the issue of horse slaughter and legislation currently before the US Senate banning the practice, calling on her opponent Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to voice her opinion on the bill.

Two of the three horse slaughter plants operating in this country are in Texas. Polls show that a majority of Texans are firmly against it, and support federal legislation amending the Horse Protection Act making horse slaughter and export for slaughter illegal. The companion bill to S. 1915, H.R 503, passed the U. S. House of Representatives 263-146 and is now awaiting a vote in the Senate.

Radnofsky made this statement to the horse advocate group, Int’l Fund for Horses, “I absolutely support the bill. I call on my opponent to denounce the overbreeding fueling the market for slaughtered horsemeat.”

Horses endure incredible hardships on the way to slaughter, but that is nothing compared with the cruelty that awaits them at the slaughter plant. Statistics gathered by one of the largest horse theft prevention organizations in the country, Stolen Horses International, shows that 60% of horses stolen end up at horse slaughter plants. This is a violation of the property rights of horse owners that can never be remedied.

“Without this bill, horse theft and abuse will continue to increase,” adds Radnofsky.

“Barbara Ann Radnofsky’s position on this issue is welcome news,” comments Int’l Fund for Horses President, Vivian Farrell. “Between Cornyn’s hostility towards the bill, and Hutchison’s do nothing attitude, Texans are looking for a voice in Washington. They have certainly not gotten it on the horse slaughter issue.”

In sharp contrast to Radnofsky’s support for the bill, her rival in the Senate race, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), has been on the fence since the bill was introduced in October 2005.

Members of the Int’l Fund for Horses’ Texans for Horses group have been contacting Senator Hutchison consistently, with frustrating results.

“When I telephoned Senator Hutchison’s office before the mid-term election break in an effort to get an answer on behalf of our Texas constituents, I was surprised by the less than friendly reception I received,” comments Farrell. “When I finally got through to Hutchison’s aide, he told me that he had spoken to the Senator and that as far as she is concerned, the horse slaughter bill is a “non-issue” and “not on her radar.”

Radnofsky is clearly dedicated to representing the concerns of all Texans and not afraid to take a stand on the issues important to them.

“For Texans who want to see the practice of horse slaughter banned, Barbara Ann Radnofsky offers a superior alternative to what we already have in Washington,” concludes Farrell.

A U.S. Senate debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters and KLRN-TV will be taped and then broadcast at 9:00 p.m. (CST) on all PBS affiliates throughout the state on Thursday, October 19. Barbara Ann Radnofsky, Scott Jameson, and Kay Bailey Hutchison have all confirmed participation in the debate.

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US Representative from Texas threatens provision banning horse slaughter on US soil

Rep. Henry Bonilla says “It’s Coming Out” to Agriculture Appropriations Bill amendment suspending funding for USDA horse slaughter plant inspections

WASHINGTON DC (Oct. 21, 2005) – Federal legislation that would ban horse slaughter on US soil for Fiscal Year 2006 saving the taxpayer an estimated $5 Million could be under serious threat because of Texas politician, Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-23-TX).

Passed by an overwhelming majority in both the House and the Senate, the amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill prohibiting the federal government from using federal funds to carry out horse slaughter plant inspection is currently being considered by a conference committee of Senators and Representatives as they reconcile the final document for the President’s signature.

Word is Bonilla is busying himself in an attempt to get the necessary votes to strip the amendment from the final bill. When confronted by legislators friendly to the measure, he is quoted as saying, “It’s coming out!”

The amendment should not be altered or omitted according to Congressional rules.

“This is a travesty and yet another example of the American people being robbed of their voice in Washington. Tragically, it is not the first time politicians have manipulated behind the scenes to the detriment and destruction of our horses,” states Vivian Farrell, President of The Fund for Horses.

The Sweeney-Spratt Amendment passed the House by 269-158 on June 8, 2005. The Ensign-Byrd Amendment containing identical language passed the Senate 69-28 on September 20, 2005.

There are three foreign-owned horse slaughter plants for human consumption in the United States. All meat and profits go overseas.

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