New York Times April 5, 2009
More Horses Rescued from Owner’s Care in 2007
By JOE DRAPE
Ernie Paragallo, the prominent New York thoroughbred breeder and owner whose horses were found emaciated and on their way to slaughter last month, had horses rescued from his Center Brook Farm in 2007. They were starving and required more than a month in an equine hospital in Saratoga Springs.
The three horses have fully recovered and are under the care of Equine Advocates, a rescue group in Chatham, N.Y. Its founder and president, Susan Wagner, said she removed the horses from the farm on Jan. 16, 2007, after a neighbor called and reported that
She transported the horses to Saratoga Equine Veterinary Service, where Dr. Bill Barnes treated them. Barnes said the horses were anywhere from 175 to 250 pounds underweight and had skin problems and parasites.
They were released from the clinic on Feb. 21, 2007.
“They had no groceries,” he said. “They were starving to death.”
Paragallo, who was at Aqueduct on Saturday watching his colt Cellar Dweller finish sixth in the $750,000 Wood Memorial, said he had given horses away from his farm in Climax, N.Y., around that time but said he was not aware that they were in poor shape.
Wagner said they were in “dire shape.”
She provided photographs of the three horses on the day they were taken from Center Brook, as well as a letter from the farm manager acknowledging that he was releasing them to her group. Wagner also provided veterinary records from their stay in the clinic.
Two of the three horses, Break the Clock and Cluster Bomb, were registered with the Jockey Club, Wagner said. She said she was told by the farm manager that the third was named Pass the Pie.
Last month, four undernourished and neglected former racehorses belonging to Paragallo were rescued from a New York kill pen, one step from being slaughtered. They were among more than 20 horses from Paragallo’s farm that were sold to slaughter for $680.
Those mares, too, were “hundreds of pounds” underweight, infested with lice and parasites and in “horrible condition,” according to Dr. James Holt, a Pennsylvania veterinarian who examined them.
“I feel terrible about it, and I am responsible for this mess,” Paragallo reiterated Saturday.
Paragallo said he had given the horses to a Florida-based breeder in December with the agreement that he could breed the mares back to one of his stallions based in New York or Florida. In fact, Paragallo said, he had intended to ship another batch of horses to the man.
However, a horse transporter, Richie Baiardi, said he had picked up the horses at Paragallo’s farm at the end of February with the intention of taking them to Florida but could not because of their poor condition.
Baiardi said that he subsequently called Paragallo, who was not at the farm at the time of the pickup, and complained about the horses’ condition. It was Baiardi who took them to the kill pen, and sold them for about $25 per horse. He said he had no other choice, that the horses were “bags of bones, literally walking hides,” and would not have survived the trip.
Paragallo still disputed Baiardi’s account Saturday but acknowledged that Baiardi had told him the horses were thin.
Holt, the veterinarian, said that blood and fecal tests showed that the mares had suffered extreme neglect over a long period of time. They had bacterial infections, were riddled with parasites like lice and worms and had skin diseases and open wounds.
All four mares are being rehabilitated at Another Chance 4 Horses’ farm in Bernville, Pa.
Lisa Leogrande, who operates a boarding and training center in Fulton, N.Y., discovered the Paragallo horses at the kill pen when she saw the horses’ name bands.
She rescued three of them and now has them at her training center.
Copyright © 2009 The New York Times Company, reprinted with permission.