Tennessee Investigation Raises Grave Concerns


May 2013

Animals' Angels
PO Box 1056 Westminster, MD 21158




Knoxville Horse Auction Draws Kill Buyers and Violators As Auction Vet Clears Emaciated Horses for Sale
The Knoxville Livestock Center operates one of the largest horse auctions in the Southeast. Animals' Angels recent investigation was the 2nd one conducted at this auction after numerous locals have complained about the poor treatment of horses they had witnessed there. We first visited in 2012 and made recommendations to the management on how they could improve. Our recommendations were not followed and what we witnessed in April was disturbing to say the least. 


From the transportation of the animals alone it was clear that the auction house was comfortable dealing with known violators. ROTZ Livestock was in attendance and as many know from our previous investigations, Rotz has numerous violations of the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Regulation as well as DOT violations including false reporting & drivers being unqualified. According to the FMCSA website the company also has 11 vehicle maintenance violations. Recently, Rotz's trailer caught on fire and all 30 horses that were inside burned alive.  Also in attendance was Tipton Farms of Limestone, TN; according to the FMCSA website, they are currently not authorized to operate.     
Waugh Livestock (red) & Rotz
At the auction investigators observed that horses were being unloaded and crammed into a narrow chute with a scale. The auction veterinarian drew blood for Coggins testing  and several horses were fighting while in the chute. Once through the horses were kept in large, overcrowded pens. Many horses were observed fighting and while there was food and water available, the more dominant horses were preventing other weaker horses from drinking. Several horses were observed that were clearly ill or injured. Investigators noted: a horse with an eye infection, a weakened horse who continued to lay down in the pen, a horse with a clubbed foot and lame, a mare in heat with weighted shoes, bandaged and wrapped front legs, perhaps from soring, a horse with a back injury & skin problem, multiple horses with fresh cuts and smaller injuries, multiple horses with overgrown hooves, and multiple emaciated horses.   
Horse with back injury
Horse with back injury
 Two of the emaciated horses had a Body Condition Score of 1 and resembled walking skeletons.  Most alarming was the fact that the auction veterinarian saw these horses and "cleared" them for sale.
Emaciated horse "cleared" for sale


The "loose" horse sale started at 7:20pm and the horses sold at a fast pace to the kill buyers. Rotz bought enough horses to fill three loads, among them several studs and horses with sight problems. The two severely emaciated mares also staggered through the auction ring, but not even the kill buyers wanted to buy them. The display showed that the weight of one of these Saddlebred mares was only 710lbs. They were moved into one of the back pens with no access to food or water.


Once the auction concluded, our investigators watched in horror as one buyer and his assistants attempted to load fourteen horses into a trailer whose entrance was too low for the ramp. Every horse that walked up hit its head and panicked. Rather than calmly assist the horses, the workers began to beat them over the head with ropes, paddles, and sticks. They treated the horses with an amazing level of cruelty leading to complete mayhem. 

Cruel loading

When Rotz loaded up his trailer our investigators observed a lot of fighting and kicking inside. It was horrific and the horses were clearly inflicting pain upon each other.


That night investigators followed the Tipton Farms truck as it left the auction. The truck drove until 1:30am when it arrived at the farm. Since it was dark the investigators left and returned the next morning.


At 8:00am, the horses were still inside the trailer. While this unfortunately is legal in the US (horses can be confined on a trailer with no food or water for 28 hours) it is deplorable behavior and shows a clear lack of concern about the animals' welfare.  

Horses left on truck


Animals' Angels investigators returned to the auction to check on the emaciated horses. They found one, horse #5164, still in the pen with no food or water whatsoever. The trough was completely dry, indicating that no water was given to the horse the night before either. In order to ensure that the animal was cared for our investigators called the Sheriff's office. The Sheriff sent Officer Hurst to investigate and when the officer questioned the workers, he was told that the animal had been sold and given food and water. Our documented evidence from the night before clearly proved otherwise. 


Horse left overnight with no food or water
The auction manager, Jason Bailey, called and began to threaten Officer Hurst informing him that he was not allowed to take any photos. These threats correspond with the intent of the recent AG-Gag bill introduced in Tennessee. The proposed bill, which had been passed by TN legislators, would endeavor to punish animal advocates who expose and document the truth, rather than punishing the abuser. Proponents of the bill claim that it prevents places like the Knoxville Horse Auction from months of "needless" investigations. Our report, with photographic evidence, clearly shows the need for people to stand up for animals and ensure they are being treated fairly.


Fortunately the officer was not intimidated in the least by the auction manager and proceeded with his investigation. He walked the entire premises with our investigators and ordered that the horse be given food and water immediately 

Horse left overnight with no food or water


We were greatly impressed with Officer Hurst and his willingness to continue the investigation in the face of Bailey's threats. At Animal's Angels we rely heavily on law enforcement to help stop the abuse we uncover. As well, we are dependent on the authorities to pursue charges and hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions. When we encounter officers and others in law enforcement who don't want to do their job - it is more than upsetting. As tax payers we pay the salaries of local law enforcement and it is important to pressure them to do their job by upholding the law, whether related to humans or animals. This was certainly not the case with Officer Hurst. Our documentation along with the police report was shared with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, State Veterinarian, and AG Crime Unit Officer. We will continue to monitor the progress and ensure that the Knoxville Auction is held accountable for how it treats the animals in its care.


This incident shows how important it is to prevent AG-Gag bills from passing. They only serve to give abusers more room to hurt those that can't stand up for themselves. Based on numerous concerns, Governor Haslam of Tennessee vetoed the recently proposed legislation which is excellent news. However, he has encouraged Tennessee legislators to review the bill and come up with a reworded version. We all need to raise our voice and stand against similar laws that are being introduced in other parts of the country.   Let the responsibility and accountability be placed solely on the abusers - where it belongs.
Help Sound Earth Give Back

to Animals' Angels!




Sound Earth Animals' Angels 

Sound Earth, maker of all natural and cruelty-free household products, wants to donate to Animals' Angels, and support our efforts to help animals in need. They'll give us a quarter for each new person who joins their e-mail list.


It's that simple. This could really add up and make a difference to our investigations! Sign up to receive their weekly e-mails with the latest on what chemicals to look out for, and helpful tips on reducing toxins in your home and help Animals' Angels at the same time! And remember, all products from Sound Earth are cruelty-free. Be sure to tell Sound Earth you heard about them from Animals' Angels!

Quick Links


Find us on Facebook 

Animals' Angels is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible.
sonja inspecting trailer       
   Your support is crucial to continue our work and Animals' Angels counts on you.






Sound Earth Animals' Angels  
Sign up for Sound Earth Newsletter 


Animals' Angels will receive 25 cents when you sign up and mention Animals' Angels!! It was never easier to donate.


About us

Animals' Angels works to improve conditions for farm animals. We closely cooperate with law enforcement and government agencies to fight animal cruelty. Our investigators are out in the field nationwide, visiting auctions, feedlots and slaughter plants.



Animals' Angels Inc.

PO Box 1056

Westminster, MD 21158



[email protected]