Press-Republican

October 5, 2013

Horses' futures hang on court decision

By KIM SMITH DEDAM Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — WESTPORT — One of the 41 horses seized from an Essex Farm a few weeks ago had a serious eye injury; another had a piece of barbed wire caught in its teeth, authorities say.

Their owner, Shelley Wing, is due in Town Court at 3:30 p.m. Monday to face 41 counts of failing to provide sustenance in violation of Agriculture and Markets law, all misdemeanor charges.

Meanwhile, the ongoing care of the animals is proving costly as courts review criminal and civil animal abuse charges.

“There is great need to raise money for the care of these horses,” said Town of Essex Supervisor Sharon Boisen, who also serves on the county’s Animal Cruelty Task Force.

Essex County is currently managing the herd seized from Wing and a Prayer Farm.

The horses were taken with a court warrant in mid September; 31 are housed at the Essex County Fairgrounds.

Friday, Boisen said she could not confirm the medical conditions of the horses, citing the ongoing investigation.

The horses and their condition is essentially evidence in the case.

Eddie Mrozik of Crane Mountain Valley Horse Rescue, a registered horse-rescue farm in Westport, did say earlier this week that the equines are gaining weight and their health has improved since they were rescued a few weeks ago.

‘URGENT MEDICAL NEEDS’

Minutes from recent Animal Cruelty Task Force meetings shed some light on the challenges local horse farms, volunteers and veterinarians have faced with the magnitude of the seizure.

On Sept. 20, shortly after the animals were removed from the Wing farm, the Task Force reviewed costs, outlining some of the medical concerns involved.

Nancy Van Wie, founder of Crane Horse Rescue, suggested the cost could amount to at least $40,000 per month for just routine medical care, not including emergency care, feed and hay.

“They all need to be de-wormed immediately for the distended bellies, and that’s an aggressive de-worming schedule of four different types of worms,” Van Wie said at the onset of seizure.

“They’re all going to need to be brought up to date on their vaccinations, and they need, by state law, a Coggins test, which is a test (required) for transporting in New York state. 

The blood test checks for equine infectious anemia and must be negative.

“Many of them are going to need to be tranquilized…” Van Wie continued at the meeting. “There are a lot of immediate urgent medical needs that are going to have to be addressed.”

‘BLOWN-OUT EYE’

It was at that meeting, that Essex County Sheriff’s Department Major David Reynolds described the emergency situations of some of the horses, among them, he said, “there’s one with a blown-out eye.” 

Van Wie estimated that 20 of the horses would require $20,000 for initial veterinary costs, “if we just wanted to make sure that they were up to speed on their vaccinations and they didn’t have any other major medical issues,” she said. 

“This is if we took in 20 healthy horses from the track and just brought them up to date.”

“So realistically, would you double that?” Boisen asked at the meeting.

“At least,” Van Wie answered.

‘COUNTLESS HOURS’

Monday, the Animal Cruelty Task Force met again, discussing legal matters in executive session.

No update on the condition of the horses was provided in public session. But in the meeting minutes posted on Essex County’s website, Boisen indicated that there were many volunteers helping to feed, water and walk the horses and keep the stalls clean.

“An incredible amount of volunteers have been working countless hours trying to make this work out well for everyone,” she reported at the meeting.

The minutes reported Boisen acknowledging the many questions Task Force members had been asked by the public about the horses, but emphasized the limitations on providing those answers because of the legal process.

“We can’t make any decisions about anything until that’s over.”

SEEKING GRANTS

The legal process seeks a bond to secure payment from Wing for care of the horses.

If that payment is not secured, the owner will have to relinquish the animals to either the county or an accredited animal shelter. 

The horses could then be adopted.

The county is also seeking grant funding to help provide care for the animals while litigation moves through both civil and criminal hearings.

Boisen told members of the Task Force it takes about eight weeks for grant funding to reach the county offices.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com

HELP THE HORSES To find out how to pitch in, contact Tam Mrose of the Essex County Animal Cruelty Task Force at 834-7849. To donate, make checks payable directly to the Essex County Treasurers Office and send it to P.O. Box 217, Elizabethtown, NY 12932. Write "Horse Care" on the memo line. The funds are tax deductible, and the county is sending receipts for donations.