08/03/2009 11:00PM

Animal aid officials kept off of Paragallo's farm


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The humane-society officials who supervised the adoption of horses from an upstate New York farm owned by Ernie Paragallo said Tuesday they have been prohibited from returning to the property because of an expired warrant.

Ron Perez, the president of the Columbia Greene-Humane Society, and Charlene Marchand, the chairwoman of the group, were ordered off Center Brook Farm, Paragallo's property in Climax, N.Y., in the past several weeks after finding homes for 74 horses on the farm. Paragallo turned over the horses to the humane society just before his arrest on animal-cruelty charges in early April, Perez said.

According to Perez, officials of the humane society were allowed on the farm under an open warrant that was issued when Paragallo was arrested. The warrant, however, expired after the horses had been adopted, and after the expiration, Paragallo's lawyer, Michael Howard, began restricting visitors to the farm, including the humane-society officials, Perez said.

Howard did not return phone calls on Tuesday. Perez and Marchand appeared Tuesday at a law conference discussion panel about equine slaughter and spoke privately afterward about the restrictions on visiting Paragallo's farm.

The Paragallo case has inflamed the passions of many racing fans and animal-rights advocates after widespread reports that horses on Paragallo's farm were criminally neglected. Paragallo was banned from participating in New York racing after being arrested and is facing 22 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

Perez said that the humane society remains concerned about the conditions on the farm, where 84 horses still reside, although he acknowledged on Tuesday that Paragallo had paid for hay, grain, and veterinary services for the horses at Center Brook after being arrested.

"Sometimes we had trouble getting him to pay, but he did pay," Perez said.

Perez said that Paragallo banned him and other officials from the farm because he disputed accounts that the officials had given to the press about the conditions on the farm. Perez was in charge of the investigation that resulted in criminal charges against Paragallo. In his investigation, Perez said that horses at Center Brook were malnourished and infested with parasites.

In earlier interviews, Paragallo denied charges of animal cruelty and contended that management problems and a harsh winter had compromised the care of the horses.