Press-Republican

August 28, 2013

Police: Emaciated horse under proper care

BY SUZANNE MOORE, News Editor AND JAVIER SIMON
Press-Republican

---- — MOIRA — An emaciated horse at the center of a social-media frenzy is slowly putting on weight, authorities say.

And the woman who now owns it, says Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne, actually rescued the horse and has had it under veterinary care.

”She should be viewed as the hero and not vilified,” he said.

Images of the sorrel horse circulating on Facebook show a virtually fleshless animal, its hip and other bones jutting out sharply, ribs exposed.

Facebook and Topix Moira posts called for the equine to be taken away from owners Brenda Shampo and Frank Burgess Jr.

State Police have been swamped this week by phone and email messages reporting what was perceived as animal cruelty, Troop B Public Information Officer Jennifer Fleishman said in an email to the Press-Republican.

The horse and another one owned by Shampo and Burgess, who live on Clark Street in Moira, “have been moved to an undisclosed location to continue receiving care,” she said. 

Their veterinarian is Dr. Judy Alishauskas of Malone, Fleishman said.

The animals have not been seized, she emphasized, and no charges have been filed against Shampo and Burgess. 

‘SLOW PROGRESS’

A veterinarian who has been checking on the 26-year-old horse for State Police has reported “a slow and steady progress of improving health,” Champagne said. 

“It’s a slow process, the nurturing it back to health,” he said. “The horse is gaining weight — the photos out there aren’t accurate.”

The frenzy over the horse, he said, “is another prime example about how Facebook and Topix and other mechanisms out there can be used in not necessarily a beneficial way.”

He appreciates the care and concern that has driven the spread of the story about the horse, he said, but people should recognize that all they read on the Internet is not true — and they should hesitate before they pass it along to others.

In this case, the older photo of the horse proved deceptive, the district attorney pointed out. 

And, he noted in general, “anyone can make up a Facebook page,” he said.

POLICE CHECK ON HORSE

The original complaint about the horse came several weeks ago, the district attorney said. At that time, two other equines were living on the property; one was boarded there and has since been moved elsewhere.

“The State Police have been very, very involved,” he said, visiting the property to check on the emaciated horse’s progress and getting veterinarian reports.

”The senior investigator said they’d been out there at least 20 times.”

HEIGHTENED AWARENESS

The groundswell of concern about the Moira horse follows on the heels of two alleged animal abuse cases in Plattsburgh, both connected to Northern Puppies pet shop in Plattsburgh Plaza.

First, owner Tammy Staley was arrested  and charged with 20 counts of cruelty to animals after an unannounced inspection found a dead kitten and other alleged violations in the shop.

Then her husband, Michael, faked a burglary as cover for removing 24 puppies from the shop and releasing them at different spots around the area, Plattsburgh City Police say.

Mr. Staley told the Press-Republican he did so because they couldn’t afford the veterinary care for the dogs.

The public turned out in droves to help police search for the puppies. All but five were recovered, and the rescued pups have since been adopted.

The Staleys are next due in Plattsburgh City Court on Friday.

For more than a year before the pair were arrested, Facebook postings had accused the shop owner of neglect and ill treatment of the animals there, with much frustration expressed over what was perceived as a lack of action on the part of law enforcement.

“Obviously, after the incident in Plattsburgh there’s been a heightened awareness (about possibly abused animals),” Champagne said. “I think people are being more vigilant and more observant.

“I’m happy people are so concerned,” he added, “ but frankly, I’d (also) like to see more concern (about) my child-abuse and and child-neglect cases.”

Shampo and Burgess could not be reached for comment on Tuesday because contact information for them was not available.

Email Suzanne Moore:smoore@pressrepublican.com