New York Thoroughbred breeder Ernie Paragallo was charged with 22 counts of cruelty to animals, the chief prosecutor in the case told The Blood-Horse April 10.
“The animals were clearly neglected,’’ Greene County District Attorney Terry J. Wilhelm, said of the Thoroughbreds at Paragallo’s Center Brook Farm in the Hudson Valley about 20 miles south of Albany.
He was arraigned April 10 at town court in Coxsackie The alleged violations are misdemeanors.
The charges came following an investigation by the State Police and the Hudson-Greene Humane Society/SPCA, which raided the farm earlier this week with warrants.
Ron Perez, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals president, told The Blood-Horse this week he found at least 40 cases of serious violations of animal cruelty laws during the inspection of the farm. State officials said all 170 horses at the farm had various states of malnourishment.
“It’s the worst Thoroughbred farm I’ve ever seen like this,’’ he said. Perez was not immediately available for comment April 10 but was expected to announce the charges later this afternoon.
The SPCA seized the farm and took control of caring for the horses. On Thursday, the New York Racing Association banned Paragallo from having any dealings with NYRA tracks.
Wilhelm said he expected Paragallo to plead not guilty. “He has been cooperating fully with the State Police and also providing what is necessary to assure that the animals at his place are being adequately fed and provided for,’’ Wilhelm said in an interview with The Blood-Horse. He said that meant providing money to the SPCA for the care of the horses.
Animal welfare officials reported extremely thin animals at the farm, some with skin infections and untreated injuries. Perez this week said each animal cruelty charge could carry up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Paragallo told the Associated Press he did not abuse any of the animals. "It wasn't knowing neglect," the 51-year-old Paragallo said. "Did I try and harm any of those horses? Absolutely not. Did some of them come up skinny? Absolutely. Was it mismanagement? Absolutely. I'm not shying away from it. But I didn't abuse them."
Mr. Paragallo has surrendered 60 horses to Hudson-Greene Humane Society/SPCA for placement and is currently cooperating with authorities, the orgainzation said in a news release. Center Brook Farm is also currently under the authority of CGHS/SPCA, the New York state police, and Dr. Jerry Bilinski and Dr. Danielle Sand, who examined the horses.
“After we learned from the State Police today that Mr. Paragallo was being charged with cruel treatment of horses at Center Brook Farm, the Racing and Wagering Board immediately terminated his privilege to be involved with Thoroughbred racing in New York," said New York State Racing and Wagering Board chairman John D. Sabini in a release. "In fact, the board earlier this week urged Mr. Paragallo to remove himself from involvement as an authorized agent for Paraneck Stable. He at first declined to do so but yesterday announced he would surrender his authorized agent privilege next Thursday. That’s not soon enough.
“I stand committed to enforcing the rules of Thoroughbred racing and ensuring that those involved in the sport do not jeopardize the health and welfare of the horses we rely on to compete in the races we regulate. Promoting integrity in racing is a top priority for this board. Further, I commend NYRA for deciding to keep Paraneck Stable from entering horses at the NYRA tracks until certain questions are satisfactorily resolved. I also wish to express my appreciation to the New York State Police, the ASPCA and the Columbia Greene Humane Society for the excellent work they have done in this matter.”