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.