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AWAC meeting addresses Foul Play at Fair Play

Published: 2/27/2010
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By Maddy B. Gray

I wish I could say “we got to the bottom of things” at the special Animal Welfare Advisory Council meeting held this week in the Deering Building of the Department of Agriculture in Augusta.
NickerNews may be opinion-oriented, but it is always interested in presenting the facts as we learn of them. We have faith that our readers can figure out the difference between equine advocacy (opinion) and straight news.
So with much frustration, here goes!

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Read fantastic As Maine Goes blog post!

Assistant Attorney General Mark Randlett, representing the Department of Agriculture, was the first to speak.
To paraphrase, he told AWAC members and the rest of us (about 20 concerned citizens and media), that the Animal Welfare Program would not discuss any elements of the investigation at Fair Play Farm.
Then, AWP director Norma Worley read a statement saying much the same and that there is an “active and on-going investigation…and benchmarks have been established (for the Ingrahams)”
She also took a jab at NickerNews, saying “chat rooms” are not the place for discussing the developments.
Norma and her agents should embrace the Internet instead of disparaging it. Simply by visiting myspace, facebook, horseville and craigslist, they could bolster the case with some great before and after photos of horses who have suffered at the Ingrahams’ hands.
(I really wish Norma and her agents would embrace the Internet instead of disparaging it. Simply by visiting myspace, facebook, horseville and craigslist, they could bolster the case with some great before and after photos of horses who have suffered at the Ingrahams’ hands! That's how the feds catch terrorists, Norma, haven't you heard?)

At this point, AWAC member Meris J. Bickford called for an executive session to close the meeting from the public. This measure was taken to enable Animal Welfare to speak to AWAC members in confidence.
A majority of AWAC members agreed to this measure and off they went to talk amongst themselves.
The rest of us milled about the concrete halls until the meeting came out of executive session and reconvened 30 minutes later.
Highlights of the rest of the meeting, for me, were the articulate concerns aired by several members of the Maine horse community:

Donna Hughes of Searsmont:
We have some of the toughest laws on the books. Who’s not doing their job? That’s what needs to be addressed. We have some of the toughest laws on the books. Who’s not doing their job? That’s what needs to be addressed.
The system is broken, obviously. Spring is coming and it’s going to be huge…there will be a huge influx of (neglected) animals coming down the pike.

Lisa Bosse, of RiverView Farm in Lisbon Falls:
If the Ingrahams say they are dealers…Livestock dealers must be licensed…that’s a form a revenue.
Bosse, who has compiled a long list of volunteers ready to foster and help care for horses in need, added:
It seems like when Animal Welfare gets a big case, everybody goes on vacation and nothing gets done. When there are two backyard horses that need to be seized, the state comes in with shining armor and saves the day…In Maine, if you’re going to abuse or neglect horses, you’re better off having 50 horses rather than two because the state doesn’t have a plan to deal with it.
If you’re going to abuse or neglect horses, you’re better off having 50 horses rather than two because the state doesn’t have a plan to deal with it.
Jan Marconi, of Triple J Farm in Bowdoin:
Obviously, history does repeat itself (in reference to the Searsport fiasco and others) …it’s time to put the heartache behind us. The health and well being of horses is first and foremost.

Estelle Werly, who has filed complaints and been actively involved in this and other horse abuse/neglect cases, asked AWAC what the public could do.

AWAC member Sharon Secovich replied that the public should keep pressure on the Department of Agriculture and get in touch with their state legislators to agitate for change.
Meris Bickford agreed.
AWAC member and Maine Equine Associates veterinarian Dr. Janelle Tirrelle added that the Maine Farm Bureau is hosting a meeting of  equine welfare advocates 6 pm, March 31st at its Augusta office. (Stay tuned for more info on that.)

Janet Tuttle, who runs Rockin’ T Rescue, expressed the views of many when she told the group: While we’re going through all this red tape and meetings, horses are dying.

Right on, Janet.
Less talk. More action.
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[Read and listen to MPBN report.]
[Read As Maine Goes blog post.]

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2/27/2010 Margy
The As Maine Goes blog post does a very good job of summing up the last 7 years and prior for Ms. Worley. How much longer can they keep her there? The California information came to light here in Maine I think it was in 2004. Thank you Maddy for all you are doing here! I have sent another round of letters of the Ag Committee and my Senator and Representative. Is there another avenue to persue as well.
2/27/2010 Advocate
Make this the legal issue which it is. The law is being broken so send your letters to the Attorney General's office as well as your legislator.
2/27/2010 Janet Tuttle
WE need to fix the welcome to maine sign to say it realy hurts to be a horse in the pine tree state. Oh but we have great laws but the kicker is we have no one with nads to inforce them.
2/27/2010 Joy
We all need to stick with this Janet. People are listening!!! I'm not sure how the FPF thing is going to pan out now that they've messed it up so badly but we can be the future for horses in Maine if we keep up the fight. I know, you've been fighting for a very long time....time to make some changes for the better!
2/28/2010 Janet Tuttle
Thank you joy i am not about to give up on the animals in this state .i have how ever given up on the so called people who are hired to take care of them . We need to get out side people to help the animals in this state,enough of all the crap and all these people bla bla bla they all talk the talk but the animals in this state needs someone that will walk the walk people need to speak up our tax dollars are being used to fill us full of s%%%t and i for one am tired of it we need to all come together. Safety in numbers it works for them so it should work for all of us if we all stand togheter. God Bless the animals in this state and shame on them.
2/28/2010 Estelle
We need to add the fact that they are a sales barn by their own admission and the state's and they are not licensed so why is the state not going after them for that too. That's another point we need to make in our emails and phone calls. I'm still sending them out and also pushing the Burnham property where I's sure they have horses in even worse condition, but I haven't seen it in person so cant file a complaint, but I still bring it up in my emails and phone calls. Whether I have seen them or not, if this is an open investigation all places they keep horses need to be checked out!
2/28/2010 Margy
I have sent a letter off to the Attorney General as well. Thank you for the input!
2/28/2010 Missy
Janet, I can think of no one in this god forsaken state that could guide us more effectively than you. Rather than beat our heads against the wall at AWAC, MEMC, AWP meetings, could we band together with your leadership? I know you're the AWP's worst nigtmare but they DO know you're there, and will always be there. Perhaps now is the time for you to call us in and form our own group, that we know will be listened to. Those are just my immediate, emotioanal thoughts, but I believe that the uproar over the FPF situation and your ongoing presence at AWAC meetings is finally getting some attention. I wish you were our leader. I trust no one like I trust you. Would YOU be agreeable to forming an "I'm sick of this bullshit" group? At this stage of the game, I don't think your name attached to anything is a minus. I think it's become a huge PLUS!
If you really want to change things at FPF, why are you not going after the person who is ultimately responsible, Ivy Rasco. She owns the property and holds the lease with the Ingrahams.
Just a thought...the number of horses in need are increasing due to economy,etc.. Winter months are the most prevalent. Seems this issue came up last year too. WHY NOT do take all that energy and passion that people have and put it to good use - by educating. You have designed a notice/poster that people are asked to put up in feed store. Design another notice educating people on how much it cost to feed a horse especially through the winter. Give them a scale on the health of a horse. Give them a guideline on when its time to give that horse up before despite measures need to be taken. List the rescues and have someone responsible for the list you have put together of people that will take in a horse and put that contact on the notice. This notice won't cure everything but if it helps ONE horse, it will serve its purpose. Distribute it around to the feed stores, etc. That's one thing you can do that would help your cause and not bring a negative connotation to your group. Source your facts from a well-reknowned vet. Sometimes simple things are best.
3/19/2010 Elaine
Enough blaming farms and people for horses that are in need. All of us have been in an uproar for two months over this business with FPF. START putting the blame where it needs to be... with us the HORSE OWNERS. After all we know how much it takes to feed and care for horses. We know our community and other neighbors who have horses. WE need to make more of an effort to speak and communicate with our neighbors when we see their horses aren't getting quite the care they should. WE can make a different that way by speaking with the neighbor, giving helpful suggestions and if nessary help them give up their horse/s to a good home. With those actions we catch things early before it gets to where there is no recourse but to put the horse/s down. No one gets hurt this way and the horses get the attention before it become abuse. There is no cost to talking to your neighbor. If we took the time and did that one simple thing, we could cover most of the State.

"An owner of a Tennessee Walking Horse once said that his horse reminded him of a lightning rod, for, as he rode, all the sorrows of his heart flowed down through the splendid muscles of his horse and were grounded in the earth." - Marguerite Henry