CATSKILL, N.Y. – Prominent New York thoroughbred breeder and owner Ernie Paragallo was convicted Wednesday of mistreating dozens of malnourished horses on his Hudson Valley farm.
A judge convicted Paragallo on 33 of 34 misdemeanor animal cruelty counts in a nonjury trial in Greene County.
The 52-year-old Long Island resident was charged after state police and animal welfare investigators raided his farm in Coxsackie in April and seized 177 malnourished horses. He could face up to two years in jail and $35,000 in fines.
Paragallo, who testified last week that he didn't know the horses on his farm weren't being fed enough, had no comment as he left court.
Michael Howard, Paragallo's lawyer, called the verdict disappointing and surprising and said he would appeal the convictions.
"This requires a horse owner to take on a very high level of burden," he said.
Ron Perez, director of the Hudson Greene Humane Society, said he was pleased with the verdict.
"This is going to set a precedent for animal cruelty cases across the country," said Perez, who took part in the raid that uncovered underfed and parasite-infested horses on Paragallo's 500-acre Center Brook Farm, about 20 miles south of Albany.
Paragallo has started more than 4,500 horses and earned more than $20 million in purses. After his arrest, the state Racing and Wagering Board suspended him from racing at New York tracks.
"This case was a shocker to the racing community," board spokesman Joe Mahoney said Wednesday. "People involved in racing love their horses. It's a rare exception that a farm owner would fall down on his responsibilities like this."