04/04/2009 12:00AM

Paragallo: I didn't sell horses for slaughter


New York owner Ernie Paragallo said Saturday that he gave away some of his horses but never intended for any of them to be sold for slaughter.

Paragallo was responding to reports that four mares suffering from a range of health conditions suggesting malnourishment and neglect were retrieved from a holding pen in upstate New York by a rescue group. The incident was reported in Saturday's edition of The New York Times, based partly on information provided by Another Chance 4 Horses, a Pennsylvania-based retirement and rescue group.

The four mares were among 20 horses at the holding pen owned by Paragallo, according to the Times. Three of those horses were bought out of the pen by an unidentified woman, according to Another Chance 4 Horses. Another Chance 4 Horses "was able to retrieve four additional mares from the group," according to the rescue group's website, but the other 13 were sold to slaughter, according to the Times.

Richard Baiardi, a horse transporter, said in the Times article that he picked up the horses from Paragallo's farm at the end of February with the intention of shipping the horses to Florida, but that he later sold them to the New York pen for $680 after complaining to Paragallo about their health.

Paragallo, a leading owner in New York, said on Saturday that the horse transporter had called him after picking up the 20 horses to complain that several of them were "thin." However, Paragallo said that the horse transporter did not ever inform him that he intended to sell the horses for slaughter.

"I don't sell my horses to slaughter," Paragallo said. "In fact, I told him, if you don't want the horses, just bring them back. But I never heard from him again."

Paragallo said that he had previously given the same man 30 horses that he took to North Carolina. The man had inquired about the 20 horses from a phone number in Florida, Paragallo said, after Paragallo distributed a list of the horses' names to farms and racetracks in New York. Paragallo said that he offered the horses for free and said that anyone who took them would be able to breed the mares back to his New York-based stallions, which would qualify the stallions for breeding bonuses.

The Times quoted a veterinarian, Dr. James Holt, as saying that the four horses at Another Chance were "hundreds of pounds" underweight, infested with lice and parasites, and in "horrible condition."

Paragallo said he did not know the fate of the horses until Another Chance posted a story on its website four days ago. However, two weeks earlier, he said that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals called him to respond to an anonymous tip that horses at his farm were undernourished. He said he invited an agent to the farm, who concluded after the visit that "seven or eight" of his 150 horses were underweight.

"I told them that they could come up anytime, and in fact, they were doing me a favor," Paragallo said. "I want to know if there's any problems there too."

He said that he had asked his farm veterinarian to modify the feeding programs at the farm to address the concerns.

"Apparently some of the dominant mares were running the other ones off their feed," Paragallo said. He also said that his farm keeps barren mares deliberately thin because it helps them to get in foal.