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Waiting for Animal Cruelty Charges

Published: 6/28/2010
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By Maddy B. Gray

The Maine horse community is holding its collective breath as the Kennebec County District Attorney’s office contemplates charges against Brett and Alexis Ingraham of Clinton.

It’s been eons since state troopers descended on Fair Play Farm and helped humane agents seize 15 horses and several other animals from Brett and Alexis Ingraham.

  We're entering our ninth (9th!) week without charges. 63 days and counting, folks.

Are they going to bring the hammer down and prosecute one of the state's biggest equine cruelty cases in recent history?

Or let another animal abuser slither away?

One should note that it is generally NOT the responsibility of the District Attorney's office to investigate the case. That duty falls on the woeful Animal Welfare program. So, just what are they still doing with this case?
Some say director Norma Worley spends more time going after her own petty grievances than pursuing major animal cruelty cases. One state employee is facing a hearing for posting a comment on NickerNews. A state humane agent is facing a hearing surrounding alleged insubordination (specific allegations not available).

Brett Ingraham was recently heard saying he is "collaborating" with Animal Welfare. Collaborating??
It's downright scary to know that justice is relying on such a dysfunctional department....
Prove us wrong, Norma, prove us wrong.

We hope to hear soon.

In the meantime, we’re learning more about the strange and conflicted operation run by the Ingrahams.

Many close to the couple say they would never hurt an animal.
Many say Alexis is a talented trainer.
Many say some horses were perpetually pampered.

But animal cruelty is not just running over a kitten in front of a group of bystanders.
The Ingrahams’ brand of animal cruelty is more insidious and duplicitous.

We hear of many horses being shot and buried. That’s not illegal. But what of the suffering before the final bullet?
We hear of horses down on the ice, suffering from hypothermia, unattended and unable to get up.
We hear of too many horses in close quarters, where the weak were not separated from the bullies, where they were left to be kicked, bitten, and deprived of food.
We hear of Brett and Alexis taking on more and more horses, even as they could not afford those already on the farm.

“They hear the word, ‘free,’ and they go and grab them,” said one acquaintance.
“With Alexis, having horses is like eating potato chips,” said another observer.
“Gotta have more. Gotta have more. Gotta have more.”

If we conservatively estimate the annual cost of caring for a horse at $3,000 (most put it closer to $5,000), then the Ingrahams would have at least $150,000 in yearly expenses.

By all accounts, the Ingrahams’ only source of revenue was in boarding, breeding, and selling horses. But they weren’t selling horses for tens of thousands of dollars and they weren’t charging $1,000 a month to board.

It doesn’t take a fifth grader to figure they were overreaching.

Perhaps, if they had kept their operation small and had an additional source of income, Fair Play Farm might have survived.
But instead, we have this horrible hoarding scenario in which horses suffered as a result of the Ingraham’s arrogance and greed.

Even as they plummeted further into supposed debt and animal welfare investigation, they denied their wrong doings to the state, to media outlets, even to close acquaintances.

An average animal owner would be mortified by a state investigation and media inquisition.

But the Ingrahams maintained a “witch hunt” was in the works and that nothing was wrong. (Indeed, the Department of Agriculture initially told us “nothing was wrong” at Fair Play Farm. But we’ll address that dysfunction later.)
Thankfully, public pressure increased as drivers by the Tardiff Road property saw dozens of thin horses, heavy with rain rot.

Nothing's wrong?

It all seemed like a twisted version of getting caught in a lie. You know, when a kid has to drum up successive lies to cover for the first one, instead of just coming clean?

When visitors voiced concern over several thin, malnourished horses, the Ingrahams said they'd just arrived.
When a horse went down because of malnourishment, exposure, or injury, the Ingrahams repeatedly told friends and visitors that the vet had been called.
But they lied.
When the horse continued to suffer from lack of care, Brett would shoot it.
As months wore on, bodies were buried with dirt or snow or even carted off to be used as coyote bait.
Brett and Alexis grew increasingly callous about their actions. More horses, even those once cherished as favorites, died at their hands. Their friends started to worry.

As one observer noted: “One person said they were crazy. But they told him, he was crazy. Well, then a whole roomful of people is telling them they’re crazy. So, who’s crazy?”

Experts say there is almost always a mental health component among animal cruelty offenders. And so it appears in this case.
In a media interview earlier this year, Brett told a reporter, “I love horses. I’d have 100 if I could.”

Heaven forbid.

Animal cruelty is depriving an animal of veterinary care.
Animal cruelty is not providing adequate shelter.
Animal cruelty is keeping an animal in harm’s way.

By these definitions and more, I believe Brett and Alexis have committed multiple counts of criminal animal cruelty.

View Reader Comments:

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6/28/2010 Meghan
and still committing... Has anyone drove by there Burnham place (Her parents) I counted over 30 horses in one pasture on saturday there was green grass and some horses looked good some looked VERY poor... I drove by again on sunday and the pasture was down to Dirt... the horses had NO hay and the trees were being eaten at that time... The works NOT over keep the Noise going there is still more horse crulity going on by Alexis and Brent.....
6/29/2010 Joy
WHY in the world would the AWP not be all over this now? They have to know or at least SHOULD know where they have moved the horses to and should also know that it's against their own rules for those animals to be kept at that location without shelter. I can't comment to the pasture situation or water as I've not been there but Everett has been very helpful in confirming that the only shelter right now are trees and that is against the law.
6/29/2010 Lin Bailey
Alexis, and most probably her non horse husband need psychatric help. I have known Alexis for several years. In my opinion she has the same disease as an uncontrollable gambler. She is definately not in touch with reality. Her baby is due in August. I wish her mom and dad would help her get the counciling she desparately needs and stop coddling her, giving in to her, and in turn, continue to be "long suffers" of her parental abuse. God help this new child!! Alexis....YOU NEED A LOT OF TOUGH LOVE.
6/29/2010 Everet
Correction Joy -- The comment from Nancy stated that there was not shade from the heat. My comment stated that there was shaded trees. I do not know anything about shelter.
6/29/2010 Linda
I drove by FairPlay 2 weeks ago, and there was 1 horse in the paddock next to the house. A black horse, which I believe might be one of her stallions. Not another horse in site. I belive they have been moved back to her old residence. No proof of that, but it appears to be so.
6/29/2010 Jan
We have to believe that the DA and ADA are still working on this case. The huge amount of evidence, statements and information they have received has been overwhelming. It's time consuming to wade through all the data, interview people and put a case together. We are hoping that we will hear soon!!
7/28/2010 Critter123
Bret and Alexis have moved back to the Burnham property. There are NO shelters outside They are continuing to purchase, trade and sell horses. They have ZERO interest in geldings, stallions because they can be bred (this worries me the most!) They have been getting regular shipments of hay My biggest concern is that they are NOT GOING TO STOP doing what they are doing unless forced by law. The Ingraham's could really care less about this whole investigation, they feel that they are just going to be given a slap on the wrist and can go along their merry way. Nobody seems to be able to say NO to these people... and it's only going to get worse if they are permitted to continue to carry on business as usual.
7/31/2010 Linda Cayer
I do hope Animal Welfare has NOT forgotten the Burnham property. I don't want them to give up on these horses. Winter is coming...
7/31/2010 Margy
It appears to this observer and in my opinion NO ONE is willing to enforce the "wonderful, strict animal welfare laws" that this state has on the law books! Especially when it comes to horses or livestock of any kind. Why many ask, over and over again. We get the pat answer no $$$ and we all know in this case and in many others the almighty $ is not a justifiable reason. How's this one "horses have historically not been under the purview of the animal welfare laws" WHAT?!!!! After this was said to me I quoted chapter and verse, definition of the word "animal" in the animal welfare laws and even pointed out the specific laws for the Equines. I never got a response from the State official that said that to me. Wake up people our neighbors in New Brunswick just took 35 horses and are prosecuting! Laws and patting yourselves on the back for getting them on the books mean absolutely nothing if you have no intention of enforcing them!
7/31/2010 Bonita S,
Hoarding is a psychiatric diagnosis, and this is nothing more than animal hoarding at its worst. If this was a dog kennel, it would need a license to operate, and horse farms should be no different. Horse farms that breed and/or board should be licensed and subject to routine inspection of the facilities, paperwork showing proof of inoculations (which should be required, ie rabies, EWT, Coggins), and feed storage. Taking care of horses DOES require money, commitment, and the ability to know when you can not provide for anymore. It is like having more children than you know you can provide for ----and I already help take care of too many of those with my taxes!
7/31/2010 gigi
Keep up the good work. This is terribly depressing. We are raised with values but when you take a look at society today things are pretty dismal. Look at congress--it's full of crooks with no intention of paying taxes. Is all of government corrupt? A starving rain rotted horse deprived of medical care is obvioulsy a crime, but it seems that those in the government have lost their sense of right and wrong.
8/1/2010 Billie
I hope charges are brought against these horrible people SOON!! They should not get away with this...
8/1/2010 skippa
I would like to know why an animal standing in a dark filthy stall 24/7...never seeing the light of day is not cruelty!!!According to Norma and agent Demos it is not a problem...and they are monitoring it!!!YUP!Thats the horse on tr. 139 in Benton NORMA !
8/1/2010 Cheryl
NORMA needs to be replaced and all her other "dysfunctional" staff! If the state wasn't out spending $50,000 on a new Suburban, maybe there would be money for the starving, deprived horses. Norma is acting so eractically. it's a wonder she even has a job. But THANK YOU Animal Welfare for dragging your feet again on obvious cruelty charges against Brett and Alexis Ingraham. I wonder if DHS should be notified for the unborn child! about you start doing your job and leave he agents alone that should HAVE your job!
8/1/2010 Missy
The Pelletiers (Alexis' family) have gotten away with this behavior for decades. They have no reason to believe that they won't continue to get away with it. AWP and DA Fowle are proving them right, again. Their disregard and arrogance for the law is well founded and it makes me sick. With another Maine winter staring us in the face, more horses will die at the hands of Brett and Alexis, while paperwork is being withheld, lost, shuffled, ignored. Maine equine welfare laws are a joke if not enacted upon! Reach out to your legislators and keep them in the loop. This is serious business and their jobs are on the line in November. Contact Norma's new boss, Robert Battesse. He will speak with you. We have been patient enough, for long enough. It's time for action, DA Fowle.
8/5/2010 Chris
This is nuts!! Really???? This still hasn't been dealt with.....shocked and horrified! Guess they think it will just go away if they wait long enough LOL
8/5/2010 Estelle
Thank you again Maddy for keeping this alive and out there. And thanks to all of you who continue to post here and continue to call and email about this issue. I'm sure the wish is that this will all go away if the wait is long enough, finally they will find this is not going to go away until they start doing their jobs and saving the horses in this state that need saving. What is the use of having some of the best horse welfare laws in the U.S. if they are rarely enforced? I am so glad I live in America and Freedom of Speech is a constitutional right! Of course some have to fight for that right, but it is still theirs to fight for. Although it is pretty sad that anyone in America has to fight for their constitutional rights, but it's a righteous fight and I'm sure it's worth it. Has anyone been to Burnham to see the condition of the Ingraham's horses there? It's probably no better then it was in Clinton, but I haven't been there yet to see so cant make a statement that it is. But if it is as bad we we will have to start pushing to have the right thing done there also. I personally can not understand why horses were allowed to leave the property during an open investigation, isn't that removing evidence?
4/16/2012 toby roberts
Something better happen with this case. Alexis was to suppose to train my mare for the trade of doing horse blankets, the horse blankets was so urine soaked with cat pee it took me multiple times of rewashing them to bring them to a wearable condition. If I had known that she would come back 100lb. less than she was to start with. Poor Cin. had to be started from ground work all over again. To this day I cannot get an English saddle near her. Alexis even admitted over the phone she beat her when she got thrown from her. I called Alexis a day or so latter demanding her to return Cin. to my barn that day. Never will have anything to do with her ever again!

"Dog lovers hate to clean out kennels. Horse lovers like cleaning stables." - Monica Dickens