Saturday, April 11, 2009
Paragallo: Investigations before the Bust
NY - Under Investigation, Paragallo Says Some Horses He Owns Are Underweight
By JOE DRAPE
Published: April 6, 2009
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is investigating
whether Ernie Paragallo, a prominent New York thoroughbred breeder
and owner, has neglected and abused horses on his Center Brook Farm.
Ron Perez, the president of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/
S.P.C.A., said investigators had been on the farm in Climax, N.Y., south
of Albany, within the past 10 days. He also acknowledged that a woman
who had picked up two horses that were malnourished and infected with
parasites filed a complaint with the state police on Saturday.
The woman, Colleen Segarra, said she was allowed into a barn where at
least 16 other horses showed signs of distress and neglect. She said they
had no bedding, like woodchips, and were severely undernourished.
"You could see their hips and spines and they had lice," said Segarra, who
is a member of the New York State Horse Council, an animal-protection
group. "They were in debilitating condition."
Segarra said she offered to take more horses off the farm as well as to
summon and pay for a veterinarian to tend to them, but was told by
Center Brook's farm manager that she could not without Paragallo's
permission. She told the police that the manager had said that he
had not been provided with enough food over the winter and that he
had trouble properly feeding the more than 125 horses on the
Paragallo denied those charges and said he had spoken to and was
cooperating with investigators from the S.P.C.A., a nonprofit organization
that has legal authority to make arrests in cases of animal cruelty.
Paragallo said he provided 14.7 tons of hay and 5,000 pounds of feed
a week for his horses.
"It was a rough winter," Paragallo said Monday. "I'm not going to lie —
there's seven or eight that are maybe 75 or 100 pounds underweight.
The investigators suggested we change our feed, and we're doing so.
There's a mare there that we're feeding three times a day."
Paragallo has been a fixture on the American racing scene since the
early 1990s when he was a leading buyer of yearlings and 2-year-olds
at auctions in Kentucky, New York and Florida. On Saturday, he was
at Aqueduct watching his colt Cellar Dweller compete in the Wood Memorial.
In 1994, Paragallo purchased Unbridled's Song for $200,000 at a Saratoga Select Yearling Sale, and the colt went on to win the Florida Derby and the Wood Memorial, where he sustained a cracked hoof. That injury was blamed for his disappointing fifth-place finish in the 1996 Kentucky
Derby, where he was the favorite. Still, Unbridled's Song — of whom
Paragallo owns half — is one of the most successful stallions in horse
racing, commanding a $125,000 stud fee and producing more than
100 horses that won $1 million.
Since 1996, Paragallo's family-owned Paraneck Stable has been among
the nation's leading racing outfits, starting 4,686 runners that have
earned $20.6 million in purse money.
The S.P.C.A.'s Perez declined further comment because the investigation
was continuing. In New York, a person found guilty of animal cruelty, a
misdemeanor, can face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine for each
Several individuals and rescue groups have come forward with harrowing
tales of horses under Paragallo's care. Last month, four undernourished
and neglected former racehorses belonging to him 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.
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. However, a horse transporter,
Richie Baiardi, said that he had picked them up at Paragallo's farm at the
end of February with the intention of taking them to Florida but could not
because of they were "bags of bones, literally walking hides," and would
not have survived the trip.
All four mares are being rehabilitated by Another Chance 4 Horses, a
horse-rescue group, at its farm in Bernville, Pa. Three other mares are
recovering at a boarding and training center in Fulton, N.Y., operated
by Lisa Leogrande, who discovered the horses in the kill pen.
In January 2007, another rescue group, Equine Advocates, took three
horses from Center Brook; they required more than a month in an equine
hospital in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The veterinarian who treated them,
Dr. Bill Barnes, said the horses were "starving to death."
Another Chance 4 Horses and Equine Advocates have produced
photographs that show the horses coming off the farm undernourished
Segarra said the two horses she removed Saturday, a mare named
Hunter's Circle and a yearling she produced by the Paragallo stallion
Griffinite, were "badly debilitated."
She said: "The yearling looked like a weanling, and the veterinarian I
had look at them said it would take at least six months to rehabilitate
both of them. I wanted to take more with me. The ones I had to leave
behind are haunting me."