Investigators found serious violations of animal cruelty laws in at least 40 Thoroughbred horses at the New York farm owned by Ernie Paragallo following a raid April 8 by State Police and animal protection agency officials.
“It’s the worst Thoroughbred farm I’ve ever seen like this,’’ said Ron Perez, president of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA, which conducted the investigation with the State Police.
The animal protection agency, which has the power to issue warrants and arrests, seized Paragallo’s Center Brook Farm following the execution of a search and seizure warrant.
“No horses can leave the farm right now. The horses are under our guidance for food and medical care. We dictate what gets done to those horses,’’ Perez told The Blood-Horse.
The raid included two veterinarians from the SPCA. They examined 40 horses, all of whom were treated in ways that violated the state’s animal cruelty laws, the SPCA president said.
“The animals had their bones sticking out, were extremely thin, wormy and many had skin infections and some had untreated injuries to their feet and eyes,’’ Perez said. He said Paragallo was not at the farm during the raid but described farm workers as “very cooperative.’’
Perez said criminal charges will be decided by the Greene County district attorney. He said each animal cruelty charge – of which there could be at least 40 – carry up to a year in jail and $1,000 fine apiece.
Perez said all the horses were Thoroughbreds. He did not know how many may have been involved in racing. He said stalls contained no bedding, including those holding mares with foals. He described many areas examined as being in poor condition, with broken fences sticking out that have injured some horses.
“It’s not nice, I can tell you that,’’ he said.
Perez said the farm has 170 horses. Forty were examined, but he said all the horses on the farm were “thin.’’ He said the horses ranged from yearlings to 20 years old. He said a scale that measures a horse’s body fat and weight gives a score from one to nine, with nine being overweight and one being as “thin as a horse can get.’’
“We had multiple horses that were scored two and one,’’ he said.
The state Racing and Wagering Board later said the farm's horse population totaled 177 Thoroughbreds, and that all showed various stages of malnourishment. The board, in a written statement, said the horses also had inadequate shelter and veterinarian care and vaccinations.
An investigator from the racing board was on the scene during the search of the farm and inspection of the horses. The board said it is running a related probe to determine if Paragallo should be able to keep his license with the state.
The board also announced that the New York State Breeding and Development Fund had frozen all incentive awards to Paragallo, Center Brook Farm, and Paraneck Stables. Racing board chairman John Sabini had requested the award money be halted pending the outcome of the investigations.
“I’m very gratified by the swift action of the State Police, the ASPCA ,and the Humane Society today because I know all New Yorkers – not just fans of Thoroughbred racing – have zero tolerance for the neglect of horses,” Sabini said.