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Looking forward to the Ingraham sentencing and beyond

Published: 6/15/2011
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

The sad saga of “horsecare” å la Ingrahams reached a pivotal milestone last week when Brett and Alexis pleaded nolo contendere and were found guilty of six counts of animal cruelty in Cumberland County Superior Court.
The young couple, arrested last August, entered Alford pleas just as jury selection was to begin.
“Jury selection is a time when defendants are forced to look at things in a cold, practical, realistic light,” said Kennebec County District Attorney Evert Fowle.
Now, all the miserable, grisly details of horses' suffering will go largely unheard.
Not going to trial certainly limits the Ingrahams’ exposure. The state collected scores of photos, videos, and written statements. Fowle’s office had subpoenaed many witnesses who were prepared to testify this month.

Unfortunately, we won’t hear the Ingrahams’ side either. We won’t hear if they are remorseful or accept any responsibility for their actions.

As his office prepares for sentencing on June 29, District Attorney Fowle said he is particularly interested in hearing from individuals who had direct involvement with the Ingrahams.
Fowle said The state will push for an order imposing a lifetime ban of horse ownership and possession. the state will push for an order imposing a lifetime ban of horse ownership and possession. He cautioned the public, however:
“The sentencing cannot be based on popular outrage,” said Fowle. “But if there are other instances [of animal cruelty], that’s something we’re interested in seeing.”

Send letters to:
District Attorney Evert Fowle
Kennebec County Superior Court
95 State Street
Augusta, ME 04330-5611

After monitoring this case for over a year, I’ve reached certain conclusions:
Brett and Alexis Ingraham fall into the “Incorrigible” category of horse owners. [I first heard this term from Maine Equine Associates’ Dr. Janelle Tirrell at a Maine Equine Welfare Alliance meeting last year.]
Folks like the Ingrahams are not likely to “see the light” and start feeding their horses good hay, calling a vet when need be, or providing their horses adequate shelter. No amount of charity or education will steer them straight.Folks like the Ingrahams are not likely to see the light and start feeding their horses good hay, calling a vet when need be, or providing their horses adequate shelter.
No amount of charity or education will steer them straight.
The Ingraham’s attorney, David Van Dyke, told the Kennebec Journal that Brett and Alexis “tried to do a good thing” and that “…no good deed goes unpunished.”
We know different.
Friends, strangers, and neighbors tried to help them. Many pleaded with the Ingrahams to scale down their operation, work within their means, cease breeding, and take better care of their charges. State animal welfare agents and state veterinarians visited Fair Play Farm many times and gave the Ingrahams generous time and resources to make right.
The Ingrahams continued to acquire, breed, and broker. That’s why the state seized fifteen horses from their farm a year ago.
When the Ingrahams came to our attention, several of us met with then Commissioner Seth Bradstreet III at the Department of Agriculture early last spring.
We pleaded with him to be more pro-active in keeping the horses from harm. One department official told us there was three generations of dubious animal care with Alexis’ family.

Three generations!

As Janet Tuttle, president of Rockin’ T Rescue, told Bradstreet at that meeting: “Mr. Commissioner, you can’t teach Stupid. These people are not going to change.”
There needs to be a better way to protect horses and punish incorrigible owners for wrong doings and keep them from repeating their offenses. Despite the Ingrahams' conviction, I’m not sure Maine does as well as it should. Or could.
The case and the upcoming sentencing will give the horse community a chance to reflect on and discuss many issues surrounding horse ownership:
  • Are Maine animal cruelty laws, reportedly some of the toughest in the country, an effective deterrent?
  • Does Maine have the resources to enforce these laws and genuinely protect animals?
  • Are there alternatives to ensure more horses don’t slip through cracks? Is it time to consider mandatory municipal barn inspections as a way to monitor horses at risk?
  • What role can fledgling organizations like the Maine Equine Welfare Alliance play in helping Maine horses?

Additional News:
According to state vet Dr. Chrisine Fraser, all the horses are doing well. Several have been placed and others are waiting to be placed.
Of the horses seized, eight were stallions. Five have been gelded; the remaining three will be gelded soon.

View Reader Comments:

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6/15/2011 Jan
Excerpt from the 'Lowell Sun' last week. Even though this involves dogs and cats, same inability to enforce the conditions ... And, I wonder if any of the monetary restitution was ever paid. "The 71-year-old woman accused of mistreating the dogs and cats was charged Wednesday in Lowell District Court with 18 counts of animal cruelty. Margot Nickerson, who lists herself as a resident of Sioux Falls, S.D., paid $1,000 cash bail and signed a waiver of rendition that will allow Massachusetts authorities to return her to this state if she leaves and does not voluntarily return. Nickerson allegedly told police she had been at her summer camp in Maine and was driving back to South Dakota when she checked into the Motel 6 on Main Street in Tewksbury around 8 a.m. The Bangor Daily News reported in December that Nickerson was sentenced to five years in jail, with all but 10 days suspended, and ordered to pay $13,00 in restitution to the state of Maine after 20 dogs and a cat were seized from her home in 2006. The judge in Maine had limited Nickerson to owning only two nonbreeding dogs unless she could prove to the court that she is capable of caring for more animals." Judge was trying ... no way to enforce .. sad. And, sadly, this isn't an isolated incident ..
6/16/2011 Cheryl
Where are the horses that were confiscated? Are they in new homes or are they still being paid for by the state?
6/16/2011 Jan
Cheryl - My understanding is that all the animals that were seized are still being supported by AWP ... They can't be released until after the formal sentencing and then there is a designated waiting period of something like 60 days that the State has to wait in the event they appeal.
6/18/2011 Jessica
"Are Maine animal cruelty laws, reportedly some of the toughest in the country, an effective deterrent?" No, because THEY AREN'T ENFORCED, and the punishment(s) have YET to fit the crime(s).

"In the language of the range, to say that somebody is "as smart as a cutting horse" is to say that he is smarter than a Philadelphia lawyer,smarter than a steel trap, smarter than a coyote, smarter than a Harvard graduate - all combined. There just can't be anything smarter than a smart cutting horse. He can do everything but talk Meskin - and he understands that." - Joe M. Evans, A Corral Full of Stories