Paragallo and Attorney Should Not Feel Burdened

One thing that is apparent following the March 10 conviction of horse owner and breeder Ernie Paragallo of animal cruelty charges is that he hired the right attorney.

Paragallo claimed he had no way of knowing the horses were not being cared for.

His attorney, Michael Howard, was quoted after the verdict as saying, “This requires a horse owner to take on a very high level of burden.”

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry after reading Howard’s statement, though I can see why his client was found guilty if that was the basis of their defense.

Howard is possibly unfamiliar with the trainer responsibility rule, common in racing jurisdictions, which holds a trainer responsible for the care of horses entrusted to him whether he is present or not. In other words, if a horse tests positive for a banned substance, the trainer is responsible whether he administered the medication or was 1,000 miles away at the time.

Apparently Howard would argue that, “this requires a trainer to take on a very high level of burden.”

Guess what? It does require a very high level of burden, on a trainer for the care of the horses entrusted to him, and on an owner for the animals he, well, owns. Anyone who doesn't want to assume that "burden" should neither own nor train a horse.

Paragallo was found guilty of mistreating horses found malnourished at his New York farm in April. He was convicted of 33 of 34 counts of animal cruetly and could face up to two years in jail and $35,000 in fines.

Investigators found 177 malnourished horses at Paragallo’s Center Brook Farm near Coxsackie when it was raided by State Police and animal protection agency officials.

Paragallo’s license to race was suspended by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board following the raid, and most of his horses were turned over to equine relief organizations. At the same time, The Jockey Club board of stewards unanimously endorsed a statement from Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps reminding horsemen it, “reserves the right to deny any or all of the privileges of The American Stud Book to any person or entity when there is a final determination by a court, an official tribunal, or an official racing body that such person has killed, abandoned, mistreated, neglected, or abused, or otherwise committed an act of cruelty to a horse.

“The Jockey Club has invoked this rule in the past and will not hesitate to do so again when appropriate. The Jockey Club maintains a long-held conviction that owners are responsible and should be held accountable for the care, well-being, and humane treatment of their Thoroughbred horses.”
You see, Mr. Howard, The Jockey Club, the official registrar of the Thoroughbred industry, says owners are “responsible” for the care and treatment of their horses.”

That an attorney would call that a burden is as egregious as the malnourishment of horses found in April at Center Brook Farm.


Leave a Comment:


Thank you, I couldn't agree more!!  Was that not the most ridiculous commment??  The article noted that his "heavy burden" of ownership earned him $20 million. But somewhere along the way he lost the vision to take responsibility and care for those  equine warriors!  Too light of a punishment, which probably won't be served anyway.

10 Mar 2010 3:55 PM

The attorney's comment might make someone unfamiliar with this case think that the defendant was perhaps an animal "hoarder" with mental problems and therefore not responsible for his actions, when in fact he is/was a business person and horse owner in full possession of his faculties who conciously chose not to provide adequate care for these animals. To make such a statement underscores the heartlessness of this man.

My only complaint about the verdict is that he was only convicted of misdemeanors; such a gross level of abuse and neglect deserved felony charges, and a longer jail sentence. At least he got enough of a sentence to make others sit up and take notice that this type of thing will not be tolerated, and good for the judge to say so!

10 Mar 2010 4:00 PM

Hope this person gets the full 2years for what he did ....Paragallo is repulsive....

10 Mar 2010 4:17 PM

His attorney, Michael Howard, was quoted after the verdict as saying, “This requires a horse owner to take on a very high level of burden [quote]

Well cry me a river! You bring a living thing into your life--be it an animal or a human--you take on the moral and legal responsibility of its care. It's that simple.

10 Mar 2010 4:44 PM

This entire situation disgusts me.  I can only hope that The Jockey Club steps up and permanently bans Paragallo from any further "priveleges".  My greatest fear is that Paragallo will shake off this little slap on the wrist and be back in business by next spring.

10 Mar 2010 4:46 PM

I completely agree 100% that it "IS" a "Resposibility".

Also...."IF" the Burden argument is the best defense that a Lawyer can come up with, then "Maybe" his license needs to be Revoked as well ???

10 Mar 2010 5:14 PM
Elaine K

Mr. Paragallo should never be

allowed to own or register a

Thoroughbred horse with the Jockey

Club from this day forward.  He

was not an impoverished, struggling, lower claiming horse owner (like many are who fed their

horses before themselves).  He was

a sophisticated owner/breeder who

grabbed millions of dollars from

the industry and then repaid those

animals who served him by virtually

abandoning them.

He and his attorney found this

obligation to be a "burden". I

believe he is a profound BURDEN to our industry!

10 Mar 2010 6:00 PM

This man should never be allowed to own a horse of any kind again.  And the sentence that may  or may not happen will be far too light.  

I am not a friend of PETA but any neglect and suffering these horses (or any animal) like this is so cruel and I wish is was a felony.  

10 Mar 2010 8:09 PM
Karen in Indiana

Thank you for addressing this situation. I agree 100% with what you've said and am sure that the overwhelmingly vast majority of people who love horse racing do too. If there is a silver lining to all of this it is that New York is changing their laws to make the crime Mr. Paragallo committed a felony in the future. If the man was having problems, all he had to do was swallow his pride and ask for help.

10 Mar 2010 8:37 PM

Amen, amen! I see that we all caught the same ludicrous statement from the lawyer! Oh such a burden - - - to take time out of his terribly busy life being a slug to swing by his farm once in awhile to check on the thousands of dollars of LIVING assets owners have intrusted him with. I'd sue if I was an owner with a horse there. As for his own horses? They didn't get that messed up overnight! He never went to his own farm in the months it took for these animals to fail so? I so hoped we'd see him in jail on bread and water only for a month or two so he could get a taste of even the mildest of his own medicine!

10 Mar 2010 9:02 PM

I agree with Flora that this should be felony charges instead of misdeameanor charges.  His lack of concern for his horses welfare is a disgrace to humanity.  No animal deserves to be treated in this manner!

10 Mar 2010 9:21 PM

Me too on that absurd comment by his lawyer. EP didn't care to know what was going on at the farm. He just plain didn't care. Out of sight ,out of mind. Well it didn't work. I'd like to believe he is feeling some remorse. Not for himself which is likely but for allowing the horses to suffer. Does anyone know what became of Achilles of Troy? I often wonder  if he was among those starving at the farm.

10 Mar 2010 9:47 PM
John T

Ernie Paragallo has been a controversial figure in thoroughbred racing for many years

so it was hardly surprising when this story broke.The sad thing is he probably won,t have to pay the

penalty he should have for showing

cruelty to so many horses.

10 Mar 2010 10:28 PM

“This requires a horse owner to take on a very high level of burden.”

Wow, how many of us would LOVE to have the "burden" of going to look at our horses?  I know I can't afford (nor do I have the technical knowledge and expertise) to own horses, so I don't.  How is there any more "burden" on Mr. Paragallo (and other racehorse owners) to ensure their animals are healthy than that put on people with household pets such as dogs and cats?  I'm sorry about your father, but even if you don't live on the property, you gotta get your butt out there and check on your horses, period.  If you can't do at least that, sell them to someone who will.

As for his 'fine,' are you kidding me?  I realize that's all the statute allows (that's another argument), but that's...what percentage of one Unbridled's Song fee?  Pretty sure Unbridled's Song was 'covering' that, so to speak, as the verdict was being read.   I hope he gets the max of all penalties.  Why was he only charged on 35, then down to 34 of the 177 horses on the property?  And which horse who was charged for was found to not have been in bad enough condition to be found guilty on?  And what a coward, going for a bench trial because he knew what affect the photos would have on jurors.  Glad the judge did the right thing anyway.

10 Mar 2010 11:43 PM

i remember not liking the guy when he was campaigning Unbridled's Song to the KY Derby. he was more interested in running that race than the fact his colt had a bad hoof. thought he was scummy then, i'm just surprised that it took so long for something indictable to happen.

11 Mar 2010 3:43 AM

I agree with the column & each & every comment, but Diastu brings up an interesting point--the others owners whose horses were staying at Paragallo's farm. What exactly is THEIR responsibility? Couldn't they have checked in at some point on their horses? Just wondering. I'm also afraid that he will simply move his operation elsewhere.

11 Mar 2010 5:33 AM

I live within 30 miles of this "farm".  When the police were called in, many local horse owners/ equine vets assisted in this rescue.  A gorgeous  young stallion of high pedigree never made it out of his paddock; he was so weak and infested that he was euthanized on the spot.  Paragallo went so far as to try to blame this "care taking" on his two daughters, one in Saratoga, one, I believe with a TRAINER license. Just 2 days ago, he was on the local TV news, attempting to defend the weight of these horses as within the "normal" parameters.  

As an owner of TBs, I find his actions abhorrant, as do all of the people locally.  I do not for one moment consider the care I give my animals to be a "burden", regardless of the nature and regardless if the cost, and I am not a wealthy individual.  That responsibility and obligation comes with the territory.  

Paragallo's negligence is appalling and his sentencing too light.  I am not a PETA person, nor does it take being one to recognize this kind of abuse.  Our courts need to take it far more seriously than the slap on the wrist he received.  The JC got it right.  I hope that the next step involves the individual owners of these animals; that they persue this individually with lawsuits of their own for Mr. Paragallo's violation of his fiduciary relationship to those who entrusted their animals to his "care".  Meanwhile, Paragallo should receive two years of community service- locally- not tucked away at his LI home- mucking stalls.  This underside of the industry needs to be uncovered, destroyed and held to the highest level of accountability.  "Mr." Paragallo is repulsive.  

11 Mar 2010 6:51 AM

It only took one partnership experience to decide that I would have no part of any trainer, or farm manager who seemed 'put-out' by my appearance at the track or farm.  Recently I bought an ex-partnership horse who is most likely to become my riding horse.  I put him at a farm with a trainer for $600 a month.  At 30 days he was out of there.  I was never sure what his standard of care was for the day, and he lost an astounding amount of weight in that short time.  I'm now paying $25 a day for his care, until I can bring him home.  Owners must keep an eye on their horses.  Not only are we paying exorbitant bills, in some cases we can't be sure the horses are receiving minimal care.

11 Mar 2010 9:24 AM

I totally agree with PomDe Terre.  Paragallo is REPULSIVE!  I also live within 30 miles of Paragallo's farm and own throughbreds myself.  His reputation was terrible.  His comments in court about not needing to feed his horses grain was absurd.  Based on the severe malnutrition of those horses, what's his excuse for not feeding those horses an adequate amount of hay??  His lame excuse about family illness keeping him away from the farm was just more worthless chatter.  

I also believe that this type of animal neglect and abuse should be a felony.  What he did to these poor horses is unimaginable.  I hope this judge sentences Paragallo with the maximum fines and jail time possible.  Unfortunately, the fine is just a drop in the bucket for him.  I'd rather see him repay some of the millions he won with these horses to the various people he's defaulted payment to.  

Ernest Paragallo, you are a repulsive individual and you deserve much more punishment than you will receive from the court.  You should never be permitted to own, race or have anything to do with a horse in not only New York State, but in the WORLD.  

11 Mar 2010 9:36 AM

A very high level of burden?  Feeding his horses?  Agree with you - if that's the best defense his lawyer could come up with, his appeal will fail and - hopefully - he'll end up in jail, as he should.  Too bad the sentence can't be longer and the fines large enough to really hurt.

Unbridled's Song (and any other stallion or mare from whom Paragallo is profiting) should be boycotted until/unless the Paragallo connection is severed.  

It would be just too awful for Paragallo to continue profiting from the great stallion, even if it means losing a season of Unbridled's Song's progeny.

11 Mar 2010 10:17 AM

What about the vet or vets that

were paid to care for the horses.


11 Mar 2010 10:45 AM

Sorry, but his sentence was insufficient.  I do not consider animal abuse of any kind a misdemeanor and his attorney is clearly not well.  Taking on the responsibility of even one animal means total committment - whether racing or just a pet.  I have had 2 dogs and 2 horses in my lifetime.  Even though they were "just pets", they were very well cared for.  I made sure of that even though the horses had to be boarded out.

This type of mistreatment of animals is personal and should be to everyone.  I am glad EP was found guilty, but again, his sentence was not strong enough.

11 Mar 2010 11:31 AM
Passionate about Racing

Is this owner for real, he actually knew nothing about how his horses were being taken care of?  His sentence should have been heavier, he deserves it.  I agree with this article totally.  If I were the owner, I would be out there everyday checking on them.  There is no excuse for this treatment.  The trainer should have been on trial also.  This is ridiculous!!  I wish I had the money to adopt them all.

11 Mar 2010 12:17 PM
Greg J.


   FYI, Achilles of Troy was at Fever Stallions in New York, He is now at Midlife Crisis Thoroughbreds in Berea, Kentucky, Standing at Stud...

11 Mar 2010 12:51 PM

Elaine is right. Misdemeanor is not strong enough nor will his sentencing be... It should be a felony to abuse an animal; horse, dog or otherwise.

I have horse he once owned. Appropriately named Nightintheslammer. I hope that Mr. Paragallo spends manynightsintheslammer for what he is ultimately responsible for.

11 Mar 2010 2:01 PM

This blog editorial left me with a bad taste. I felt this due not so much Paragallo's malnourished and dead horses-I was already well aware of this horror-but rather because of its bent. There were so many more productive issues to be raised, rather than simply providing a stimulus where others can vent their rage. Aside from the "Five Cross Files" this is too often the easy road taken by these BloodHorse blog topics...I also object to the somewhat illogical reasoning employed in the author's "argument". A minor point deals with Paragallo's attorney's use of the word "burden". It is meant in the legal sense, i.e. legal burden, and not physical burden as some might infer. Of somewhat greater significance is the author's incorrectly implied assertion that racetrack trainer legal responsibility and owner reponsibility are legally one in the same. For that matter this trainer responsibility is, unfortunately, more focused on use of illegal medications and far less so on the general well being and physical safety of their trainees. When is the last time a trainer was called to task over the catastrophic breakdown of their trainee-don't tell me that none were ever due to trainer irresponsibility (negligence, lack of reasonable knowledge, lack of oversight, etc.)... Better that this topic addressed potential laws and regulations to better monitor the care of horses. For example, many state-bred programs contain a residency requirement causing officials to make visual inspections at farms to insure that the mare, etc. resides within that state. How easy for them to then also inspect the relative well-being of the horses in residence-but they don't. Why not also put pressure on the various states to require vets to report neglect, with a penalty for those that remain silent. I'm sure there are other fine ideas.        

11 Mar 2010 2:05 PM

I visited the farm at the inception of the investigation in an effort to try and help garner support from the industry in any way I could.  I learned from one of Paragallo's employees that a couple of the horses on the farm had died over the winter due to starvation.  What I saw was horrendous.  Animals standing out in fields with rotting skin and feet, lice infested, diseased and ribs sticking out.  They were hungry, weak and in desperate need of help.  I made a second trip up with Joan Lawrence of the NTRA and Diana Pikulski of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) met us there.  Diana and Joan, along with many horse people in the community were extremely helpful in assisting Ronald Perez and his staff at the Columbia-Greene Humane Society in the placement of many of the horses and assistance in their care.  The TRF, NYRA, and  NTRA were quick to help and assist in the efforts and Ron and his staff did an amazing job in getting veterinary care, food, bedding and care for the horses.  In all my years as a horse owner I have never witnessed anything so sad.  It is my understanding that the maximum sentence Paragallo will face is a $33,000 fine and two years in jail.  It's a shame they can't lock him up in a place with no food.  Maybe then he would understand how terribly these animals suffered and what a lack of responsibility and compassion he showed for them.  As far as his attorney is concerned...shame on him for the comments he made.  If he made a trip to that farm I don't think he would have in good conscience been able to represent that despicable human being!

11 Mar 2010 2:56 PM
Joe I.

There are very few times in my life that I have felt confused & or bewildered but this is the final straw. You have two political animals in the likes of Elliot Spitzer, and current guv David Patterson, both running for their lives due to their total lack of integrity and moral bankruptcy & now Ernie Paragello! I have come to the conclusion that there must be a parasite in the NY water that attacks the grey matter leaving them and the vast string of people attached to them that haven't been named an utter waste of fresh air. I hope I never have to go to New York, or maybe I'll just bring my own bottled water?

11 Mar 2010 4:29 PM

This man should not be allowed to own any animals ever again. He should do time in jail without food or water and see how it feels.  What a shame.

11 Mar 2010 7:29 PM
Midway Sue

I can't believe the state of NY hasn't caught up with the rest of the country and passed a law making animal cruelty as a feloney. As far as the horses being a "burden". Yes they can be, so if you don't want that burden how about this " DON'T OWN THEM!

12 Mar 2010 9:00 AM

I hope that one day he is feeble and dependent on the care of others, and that someone tells him, "Sorry.  You are too much of a burden."

12 Mar 2010 9:29 PM

My wife and I adopted 3 fillies and a mare from the EP starvation camp.It was an emotional experience seeing the results of a no feed program.I can't begin to put in words the joy we have felt bring these gals back to normal health and condition. We also had the oportunity to obtain the dam of one of our mares who was found in a killer pen by Lisa Leogrande, from Fulton,N.Y. The pen was full of EP starved horses and the trip to Canada was in doubt do to their terrible condition.Lisa rescued all that she could afford.Columbia-Greene Humane Society did a terrific job dealing with this equine nightmare.I often wonder why the employees didn't blow the whistle on EP before the situation got completely out of control.

13 Mar 2010 10:58 AM

Mr. Liebman,

This is off topic, but I can't resist...

Aren't you clamoring:"New York trainers get out while you still can!"  :)

13 Mar 2010 12:02 PM

Thank you Greg J for that welcome update

15 Mar 2010 12:47 AM

Achilles of Troy, New York Hero, Blazing Song, Lord ofthe Thunder and Big Unit from the Paragallo stock are now standing at stud for MidLife Crisis thoroughbreds on Briarcliff Farm near Berea, KY. Phone 895-986-4362

25 May 2010 12:13 AM

What about Aristotle? He was another stallion that stood at the farm and the sire of my horse, Nightintheslammer. Anyone know?

22 Aug 2010 8:09 AM

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