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October 22, 2013

Horse seizure questioned

Says wrong court handling alleged animal cruelty

ESSEX — An attorney for the National Animal Interest Alliance says the civil side of the horse-cruelty case here should not have been handled at the town level.

“A bond was set for $40,000 and change, which exceeded the jurisdictional amount of the court,” Nancy Guttenberg said in a phone interview.

“We’ve done everything in our power to do it legally,” countered Essex County Attorney Daniel Manning. “I did look into whether the court had jurisdiction.”

In early October, Essex Town Justice Stephen Sayward ruled that the ownership of 40 horses seized from Shelley Wing’s Wing and a Prayer Farm be given to the county after the Essex woman failed to put up security for $43,890, representing a month’s care for the animals.

‘REFERS TO JUSTICE COURT’

“The proper form for this case was New York Supreme because of the jurisdictional limit of the court,” Guttenberg said. 

According to the State Unified Court System, town courts such as the one in Essex that is handling the Wing case “hear civil lawsuits involving claims of up to $15,000.”

Manning said he followed Agriculture and Markets Law Section 373 in deciding it belonged in the town venue. 

Wing was arraigned in Essex Town Court, and at that point, it was not known, he said, “what the value of the animals was or the value of the security” that would be required.

There is nothing in the Ag and Markets law, Manning said, that indicates a change of venue would be required depending on those amounts.

The repeated reference to “court” in the law, he said, “refers to the justice court where the arrest was made.”

As well, Manning said, he researched numerous similar cases online that were handled at that level.

QUESTIONS SEVERITY

Wing and her daughter, Emily, are both charged with 41 counts of failure to provide sustenance under State Agriculture and Markets law, a misdemeanor punishable, per count, by a fine of $1,000 and up to a year in jail. 

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