Death toll at horse farm now at 11

Hudson Valley SPCA: Calls coming in from anxious horse sellers

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  • Gene Hecht, Chief of Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Argus Farm (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • The farrier's report

  • Photo provided by Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement

  • Photo provided by Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement

  • Photo provided by Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement

  • Photo provided by Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement

  • Photo provided by Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement

  • Photo provided by Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement

  • Photo provided by Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement

By Frances Ruth Harris

— Jeanne Ryan, 48, of 132 Gate Schoolhouse Road in Goshen was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals and failure to properly dispose of dead animals after four horses were found dead in her barn at Argus Farm.

More dead horses have since found in other locations on the farm, bringing the total to 11. Gene Hecht, Chief of Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement, said that since Ryan's arrest, he's been getting anxious calls, from as far away as California, asking about the welfare of horses sold to Ryan. One seller even called The Chronicle for information.

In less than 24 hours, starting on Friday, Hecht received 109 voice mails regarding the dead horses, and the calls are still coming in.

Multiple calls were made to Ryan and her lawyer for comment but were unsuccessful. Hecht said Ryan told him she put the horses in the barn because they kept breaking the fences and entering the road, then her neighbors would call the police.

Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement made the announcement on Friday:

"Following an extensive investigation, and armed with a Search Warrant, Investigators from the Law Enforcement Division of the Hudson Valley SPCA, in cooperation with the Goshen Town Police and Catskill Veterinary Services, seized a badly neglected and emaciated Stallion left in a stall without food or water, left only to chew on the wood of the stall. (Cribbing) This horse was left standing in feces with split infected overgrown hooves.

"Authorities also discovered the carcasses of four deceased adult horses in contiguous stalls together with a dead foal in a nursing position. The horses presumably starved to death. The deceased horse carcasses were found to be in a state of severe decomposition.

"Anyone with additional information is urged to contact the HSPCA Law Enforcement Division at 855-448-2548."

A farrier from Pennsylvania, Katie Scally, wrote that on Aug. 2, she trimmed the hooves of a pony at the farm that were so overgrown, the animal needed sedation (see her letter, provided with this article).

Hecht sent The Chronicle photos taken at the scene. They are provided with this article, but readers are warned that they are extremely graphic and disturbing.

Hecht said a man who sold Ryan hay dropped a few round bales for the horses outside the barn, even after Ryan stopped paying her bills, because he felt sorry for them.

A grim discoveryThe first four horses found dead were discovered on Aug. 5. The story has since blown up on social media.

Kay Myruski of Brookfields Farm on Pulaski Highway in Goshen has worked for years to save horses from abuse. She told The Chronicle that she's never seen a community so outraged. She said she's absolutely disgusted.

"I never expected it from her," Myruski said of the farm's owner. "She is an intelligent woman."

"I can't believe someone can go from one end of the spectrum to the other," she continued. "What vet went to the farm? How come no one knows her? How come no one knew about the horses?"

She said not all of the horses received the same poor treatment.

"Why weren't all the horses starving?" she asked.

The owner's ex-boyfriend, Angel Garcia, told the Chronicle that he will do a deposition on what he knows. He said he had lived for years on the farm, where he was "pretty much the slave."

Garcia said the horses didn’t get fed on time. When he was away, he would ask his parents to check on the horses, and they would drive all the way in from Belleville, N.Y., to care for them.

“I want as far away from her as I can get now,” he said of the owner.

Myruski said that, to her, it's like child abuse.

"If we allow this to happen on a farm were hundreds pass by, then we have failed those animals," she said. "They should have been noticed and not cut from our radar."

A light penaltyHecht said he was called to Ryan’s farm eight years ago. She ordered him off her property because he didn’t have a warrant. This time he came armed with a warrant and the police.

He said punishment will be left up to the judge. It could be one year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both for leaving the surviving stallion without food or water among the carcasses, he said.

The other charges, for not burying the carcasses, would mean only a fine imposed by the judge, he said. He said the carcasses are being buried.

Hecht said the law can't be changed because the animal industry has too many lobbyists in Albany, according to what some local politicians have told him. The law is stricter for companion animals than for farm animals, he said.

Rocky’s Law, an Orange County law that prohibits abusers from owning animals for at least 15 years, applies only to those who have abused dogs.

An order from Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement requires Ryan to have a veterinarian and farrier check the remaining horses on her property within 72 hours, Hecht said.

Hecht said the laws are too weak. It’s rare that any case of animal abuse goes to a jury, he said.

“We need the judges to take animal cruelty and neglect seriously because it’s becoming an epidemic," said Hecht. "We have cases where the judge finds the party guilty and then returns the animals to them.”

He said that ten years ago, Hudson Valley SPCA would receive under 100 complaints a year. Now there are 500 calls a year, he said.

Cindy O’Brien, farm manager at Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary in Middletown, started a petition to address the abuse. As of Tuesday afternoon the petition was 122 short of 10,000 signatures.

"Most of the animals in my care come from cruelty cases," O'Brien stated in an email to The Chronicle. "Because of my involvement in these cases, I have first-hand knowledge of how the legal system fails the animals and is just a slap on the wrist of the offenders. This case is horrific and we are trying to educate the public on what is happening as well as hold Jeanne Ryan accountable for her crimes. Gene and I have banded together as well as John Sibley and Victoria Shade to ensure this is not taken lightly and in hopes that a change can be made to laws that should protect animals. We have seen how often the (District Attorney's) office does not know how to prosecute these cases and especially because Ryan is former NYPD hope Hoovler will have direct involvement."

The petition can be found on Facebook:

To make a complaint about animal cruelty visit

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include the new death toll and other information.

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