Animal advocates in New York are seeking donations to care for the malnourished horses found last week at Center Brook Farm. Please consider donating to the care of the horses - or if possible - even adopt one.
Shocking cruelty case finds 177 horses mistreated at N.Y. farm
April 14, 2009
CLIMAX, N.Y. — Just Wonderful was no longer able to live up to his name.
The Thoroughbred was several hundred pounds underweight, grotesquely exposing his tailbone. His winter coat had given way to patches of exposed skin, evidence of a bacterial skin infection known as "rain rot." He was infested with lice.
Just Wonderful was hardly alone in his misery. Stall after stall at Center Brook Farm was filled with one horse after another, one in more horrifying condition than the next. All 177 of them would appear to serve as evidence in the case in which prominent breeder Ernie Paragallo is charged with 22 counts of cruelty to animals.
"It's hide stretched on skeleton," said Charlene Marchand, chairperson of the board of directors of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA, in showing Houston Station as he stood in the afternoon sun on Monday.
Jerry Bilinski, a veterinarian who is part of an effort he hopes will bring national attention to the importance of horse rescue operations, estimated that most of the Thoroughbreds had been living primarily off their own flesh for months.
Houston Station was so malnourished his spinal column was exposed. Bilinski parted some of the gray hair on the horse's dull coat to show lice scurrying. "When you part the hairs, they run," he said. "He's full of them."
Houston Station stood still, barely showing signs of life. "If you didn't eat for a month," Bilinski said, "you'd be quieter."
One horse was euthanized Thursday when numerous maladies kept him from solid footing. Veterinarians determined that he could not be saved.
The grisly conditions were discovered Wednesday when authorities raided the farm. Ronald Perez, an investigator for the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA, was among them. He said they were shocked by what they found at a farm about 20 miles south of Albany, N.Y.
"I've been doing this for 12 years. I've seen some grim things," Perez said. "But not of this magnitude."
Paragallo, 51, who does not live at the farm, was arrested after he was questioned following the raid. Perez said Paragallo, who was not accompanied by an attorney, repeatedly said he had not managed the facility properly but did not intend harm.
Paragallo could not be reached to comment. The New York State Racing and Wagering Board has banned him from further involvement with Thoroughbred racing in the state.
Rescuers are straining to meet the needs of the horses. Columbia-Greene, which has an annual budget of $500,000 that will be severely strained by this emergency, is seeking donations through its website.
Paragallo agreed to transfer ownership of 66 horses to make them available for adoption once they are nursed back to health. The courts might decide the fate of the others.
Marchand prays for a good outcome. "I trust that God is going to help us," she said, "because we need all the help we can to get these horses placed safely."