MASSENA - A Brasher Falls veterinarian said his examination of 26 horses on a farm on the Haverstock Road in the town of Massena revealed signs of poor management and husbandry.
Dr. Joel M. Nezezon was called to the farm as part of an investigation by state police that resulted in 22 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty being filed against Patrick J. ONeil, 65, of 326 Haverstock Road. State police charged ONeil with keeping the horses in a neglected, unsanitary and unhealthy condition.
The Brasher veterinarian said he was asked to evaluate the condition of the 26 horses on the property.
All of the adult horses are in need of foot care and probably deworming. There was one severely lame mature paint mare and one debilitated undersized three-year-old paint stallion, he said in the statement he provided to state police.
The young stallion had reportedly been born with a genitalia condition and since it was not cared for was debilitated by the inability to retract his penis.
He noted he found most of the horses in fair to good body condition and indicated three adult stallions were paddocked separately but there were several intact males with the main herd, including four newborn foals.
The horses are somewhat feral and difficult to handle. There is a carcass of a mature horse in the barn that had been there for some time, with evidence of other carcasses throughout the farm, he noted in the report he provided to the police.
He said even though food and water were available conditions were far from ideal for the animals.
Recommendations would include foot care, deworming, dental work, treatment of the lame horse, euthanasia of the debilitated horse and the stallions should be separated from the mares of castrated to prevent further pregnancies or injuries within the herd, Dr. Nezezon suggested.
Massena Town Justice Gerald P. Sharlow had signed a search warrant that allowed troopers to go on the property to determine the condition of the horses after state police responded to a complaint filed by a neighbor.
Shannon E. Day-Laclair, in a statement she provided troopers, said she had tried to assist ONeil with the care of his animals for over a year and said she had decided to call an elected official and seek assistance on May 8 after he refused to give her permission to get care for a horse that appeared unable to bear weight on its front leg.
She said she had first offered her assistance when she saw a baby horse laying on the ground and very lethargic around Easter 2012.
Patrick told me the baby horse was too far gone, and the mother was not producing any milk. Patrick pretty much told me he was going to let it die, she said.
Ms. Day-Laclair said ONeil allowed her to take and care for that foal, and it died a few days later.
She told police she had also seen repeated instances of mares with open wounds causes by the stallions that they were sharing pasture space with.
The two adult stallions were biting all the mares and were leaving open wounds on the mares. The stallions ended up killing a mare by ripping her throat open, she told troopers on her statement.
She said she had treated several of the injured horses with penicillin.
Patrick would only help me once in a while when I would pressure him to help the animals or I would make him pay for it. Ive seen numerous horses die over the past year. There are many horses over there that are extremely neglected and need vet care immediately, Ms. Day-Laclair suggested in her statement.
There have been several occasions when Patrick was going to let the horses die, and Ive had to help in any way I could to keep them alive a little longer. Patrick does not care for the animals and when he sees that a horse may die he takes them into the back barn and just leaves them to die, she added.
Ms. Day-Laclair also told police most of the mares were pregnant and had been inbred.
Patrick refuses to separate the horses and once a pregnant mare gives birth they get pregnant again and the inbreeding continues, she noted.
Ive tried to help Patrick as much as I can, but he needs help and cannot care for the animals. He should not have horses, Ms. Day-Laclair said in the statement she signed for state police.
Her call to an elected official initially resulted in the director of the Massena Humane Society meeting with ONeil in the early afternoon hours of May 8. Heidi J. Bradish said she and ONeil went out to the field and looked at the brown and white mare that was limping.
The mare appeared to have more of an injury than a hoof problem. Patrick told me he wanted to trim the hooves, and he thought it would go away, Ms. Bradish noted in her statement to police.
She said she noticed the other horses on the property all had bad feet and were in extremely bad condition from parasites.
Patrick told me he would treat the horses for the parasites at the end of the month when he had money. Many of the mares are currently pregnant and should have not have parasites when they are pregnant, she said.
She also told troopers she had seen one horse with bald patches and open wounds.
I could tell Patrick was becoming uncomfortable with me being out there and kept making excuses on why the horses were in extremely bad condition, Ms. Bradish added.
Trooper Kim M. Briggs responded to the property later that afternoon and noted from the roadway she saw two horses - one limping and another with bald patches and open wounds - that appeared to be in poor condition. She also said felt from her initial look at the situation that the other horses on the property were being neglected.
That launched the investigation that led to ONeils arrest. He is scheduled to reappear May 22 before Justice Sharlow.
The town justice had arraigned ONeil on the 22 misdemeanor counts on May 9 and released him on his own recognizance after the Haverstock Road resident entered a not guilty plea. The court also stipulated ONeil is not allowed to bring any more animals to his property while the case is pending.