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In the Alley with Maine Animal Welfare Gang

Published: 5/13/2010
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By Maddy B. Gray

In other states, those charged with protecting horses work hand-in-hand with the greater horse community. With cooperation and outreach, horses at risk are placed in good hands, often at no expense to the state.

It happens. We know it does. (Click here to read NY story)

But in Maine, the Animal Welfare Program is fulfilling a twisted pledge to deliberately keep horses in harm’s way.

In Maine, the AWP is deeply devoted to a strategy of misinformation and subterfuge. Instead of reaching out to the thousands of responsible, compassionate horse owners, it mocks us.

The AWP has moved beyond gentle ineptitude. It’s striding confidently into the realm of malicious purpose as this week’s actions demonstrate.

Not Responding to Complaints:

Well-documented complaints about Brett and Alexis Ingraham were sent to AWP in January, even before NickerNews first reported on the complaint from Meris Bickford. (Click here to read complaint)
NickerNews has learned that late last year, a couple sent their mare to Fair Play Farm for breeding. She was returned to them this January in very rough shape (and not even pregnant). The horse survived only after intensive veterinary care.
You’re thinking, Slam Dunk, right? A fantastic, hand-delivered opportunity for the AWP to nail an animal cruelty offender, right?
No one from the Animal Welfare Program ever responded to this complaint, according to the couple. Ignored by AWP, this documentation nonetheless has been submitted to Kennebec County District Attorney Evert Fowle as part of the animal cruelty investigation.

Not Supporting Effective Agents:

This week, AWP director Norma J. Worley suspended agent Susan Metzger. Metzger, according to many, is the one agent who actually works to help horses. She has worked diligently to bring animal cruelty offenders to justice and therefore runs contrary to AWP interests.
Metzger may be involved in the case in Androscoggin County. In that case, Alexis Ingraham allegedly sold diseased horses in March. (Click here for article)
It's interesting to consider the time line here. If Fair Play Farm was “under investigation” and “being monitored” since February, wouldn’t state vet Christine Fraser have noticed the sick and sold horses?
Metzger ran counter to Norma’s mission, so she’s been sidelined.

Bogus Outreach:

Last week, the Department of Agriculture’s wheels of propaganda were churning hard.
Commissioner Seth Bradstreet and Deputy Commissioner Ned Porter issued duplicate statements defending AWP against “the bloggers.”

They claimed 27 horses were seized by AWP in 2009. We asked for information on those seizures. You’d think the department would jump at the opportunity to promote AWP good deeds, right?
We were told to file Freedom of Access Act requests. And then we could expect to pay ten cents a page for the info.
Does this sound like a department ready to toot its own enforcement record?
Nope. It sounds like a bluff-and-stall tactic for a department with something to hide.
I’m one of many still waiting on information requested via FOA months ago.

Let’s push back from the table of bad news and ask ourselves:

Why doesn’t the AWP accept our help?
Why doesn’t the AWP help horses?
Why does the AWP seem to spend more time harassing do-gooders, coddling the abusers, and releasing misinformation, rather than enforcing animal cruelty laws?

It all makes sense if you think of the street gang masquerading as a community service group. At first glance, with their benevolent talk, swagger, and secrecy, they seem alright.
Want to join? (Sue Metzger did. Many others did, too.)
But then you get a peek at the gang’s ugly initiation rites: You gotta be good at denying wrongdoing. You gotta help the bad guys or at least look the other way.

Get Ready, Dear Reader, we can think of no greater injustice than the collapse of the Kennebec County case against Fair Play Farm. But if AWP stays true to form, Norma and her gang will do their best to kick that travesty into the gutter.

View Reader Comments:

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5/13/2010 Margy
YAHOO! Again an excellent article with all our questions asked yet again. One wonders when and if the powers that be will ever own up, and come forward and honestly answer these questions instead of constantly trying to use political smoke screen and double talk.
5/13/2010 Carrie
It just makes me sick that they just turn their backs to this. It's not the first time and surely won't be the last.
5/14/2010 Estelle
It's really sad about Sue, she is one of the best officers they have and now this...she's not the only one they are after either. Like usual, you did a great article Maddy, thanks for keeping the pressure I posted on facebook, "you can stand me up at the gates of hell and I wont back down" I will NOT be intimidated. I will also be speaking to my state reps about this and what is happening now to people who try to stand up for the equine's rights to decent and humane care and the lack of action in dealing with these issues by the state. P.S. love the picture you used for this article :O)
5/14/2010 Baracuda
I have reported horse cruelty to the state in the past with a very good response and outcome. There are so many of these horses in need at that farm, I believe the state just doesn't know what to do with them all. Who will pay for the vet care that they need? I doubt Fair Play Farm will, as they can't afford to care for them now. I have to believe that the State will step up to the plate and do the right thing - especially knowing there are so many expecting them to do their job, and are watching this case with great interest.
5/14/2010 Jan
IMO, AWP (Norma and Christine) are just as much to blame as Alexis for selling the diseased horse. If they had done their jobs in the first place, FPF would have been shut down, no horses allowed in or out ... Maybe Alexis should name AWP as co-defendants...???
5/14/2010 Joan Cameron
Let the AWP be forewarned that horse lovers in the state of Maine are not going to take it any longer. Enough is enough. We are putting them under a microscope and are going to be hollering at the tops of our lungs about the injustices we see. Fair warning Norma....the fire has been turned on and the water is heating up..........
5/14/2010 Barbara
I was told by a Vet that the State does not have any money and does not care about AWP. Are these people just collecting a pay check. I am wondering why the State is keeping Norma J. Worley on in her duties. It is time to call Ms. Worley on the carpet. It is time to let Susan Metzger tell what really happen and how much is being covered up. Isnt it over kill in Maine to have a Commissioner and Deputy for one job. In time likes this get rid of one of them. Isnt that what good Adm. assisants are for? Trim the fat and there would be more money for the AWP program. It is quite clear what is going on. The guy in the pictures does not look like he misses to many meals. Maybe its time to flood Augusta with phone calls and emails. Tie up there switchboard and email. Call or email. I am wondering if there is anything the Farm Bureau can do?
5/14/2010 Margy
As far as the state not having the funds to handle the FPF issue, maybe they don't but the management of the AWP budget is another whole issue and one they use constantly as a smoke screen and a reason why they don't ...I have it on good authority that AWP, Norma Worley was told that HSUS would aid financially in this matter with FPF and she has not taken them up on the offer! One has to wonder why?
5/14/2010 Wondering
When this all started to come to the head it is near now , they put together a list of people willing to take one or more horses at thier own cost . it would not have cost the Stater one penny to have placed all those horses into good loving warm homes with good feed and vet care. Yet they did nothing .. Then after finding out about sue ,,, it sure seems to be the palms of AWP sure seem to be getting greesed from some where in this one big case here.. Am i the only one thinking this ???
5/14/2010 Missy
Please know that for YEARs, and most recently months, regarding the Pelletiers and now Ingrahams, we have contacted the media, legislators, Governor, AWP, Attorney General, DAs. We continue to seek out interested and concerned parties. Often, they come to us for information. I encourage you to do the same. Call and write your state Rep and Senator. Enlighten them. Every single one of these horses could have been rescued, at NO cost to the state, yet they refused to allow us to do that. Over 50 people volunteered their trucks, trailers, barns, assumption of vet and farrier expenses for the horses in life threatening situations, yet we were not taken up on our offer. Then ask yourself WHY?
5/14/2010 gaeliclass
Remember the Maine Equine Welfare Coalition Meeting on Wed at the Farm bureau in Augusta. Starts at 6:30 pm. Anyone interested in jumping on board against the injustices done to our equine community please try and attend.
5/16/2010 Elaine
Everyone is talking about Alexis selling a diseased horse -- give the facts here as some of us might be able to shed some light on this animal. Whats the animals name, breed and what is the disease?
5/17/2010 Everet
I'm not clear on what is meant about Norma's perverse and secret mission so I'll assume its pertaining to her cases she is working on. You do understand that Norma is bound to privacy on cases that come into AWP just like Sue is. I find it very interesting in the beginning when comments were printed left and right about AWP -- Sue was part of the problem but now its "poor Sue."
5/17/2010 Jan
I don't remember seeing any post specifying that Sue was 'part of the problem.' As far as I know, everyone here who knows Sue, thinks very highly of her. Sue is a very respected and liked Humane Agent.
5/17/2010 Missy
I see NO WHERE that Sue has been attacked by anyone. Quite the contrary. Sue is one of few agents that have put their jobs on the line to do justice for horses in need. We totally support Sue, in anyway we can. As for the "assuming" comment. That's exactly what you're doing and you are incorrect. We are seeking answers to why horses continue to stand in filth, are barely fed, die in their holding tanks and we are continually given the "open and under investigation" line of age old crap. Yes, we seek answers to open invetigations but we also seek answers to closed cases, some nearly 10 years old, and why nothing was done to save these equines, eventho help was lined up at the proverbial gate, free of charge to the state.
5/18/2010 Everet
Its ok if you don't remember seeing any comment specifying about Sue -- it was there. I did want to ask what you meant by "everyone here" who knows Sue. Where is "here?" Sue has been slammed just like the other agents. Again, who is "we" when you are talking about "we" totally support Sue? And I'll be the bigger person and say I was in error to assume. Assumption is dangerous and can misconstrue any situation as we've seen in the past. I understand that it can be frustrating to hear "open and under investigation" but no matter how much you crab and moan about open cases, agents and the likes are bound by privacy. As to the closed cases -- you are talking about some over 10 years old. Sincerely now I'm not being factitious here --if there is such an injustice as you believe, why hasn't your group been successful in partnering with AG (AW), not been able to disect those closed examples and come up with a clearer, more concise solution so there is no repeats in 10 years time? I don't have anything to lose here so I'm just laying it on the fence -- when you have two groups that want to take control with neither group relenting, it ends up that no one wins. Why does any one group have to win? Why can't the horses win? Someone has to start the process of progress. There is so much water over the dam between your groups that its going to take lots of effort on all sides to keep the communication open but someone needs to step up to the fence and swallow his/her pride. It takes a lot of guts to do that.
5/19/2010 Missy
Initially, I wanted to fire off a response to the above comment but then asked myself WHY waste my time? So, I'll "waste" just a few moments to say that, you are obviously new to to the inaction of AWP on behalf of Maine equines, have no understanding of the history regarding agents that step outside the state box to help the equines. If you have a suggestion, we haven't tried, on how to save the starving, injured, and freezing to death horses, please share. So far, you're batting zero.
5/21/2010 Everet
Forgive me for obviously being new to the inaction of AWP on behalf of Maine equines regarding the history of the agents and what they do and do not do. Sadly, I would say that we all are batting zero here. If being on the outside or being NEW to the equine issues is a travesty so be it. Sometimes a person on the outside with nothing to lose, looking in, has a broader picture. I see a group who is determined to help equines anyway they can. I see that same group has become just what they are fighting against. (The other group.) Giving the similiarities -- both groups jump when there is a complaint; both groups investigate the horse in question; both groups take pictures called evidents; both groups report that evidents back to lawmakers; ONE group has the right to actually check out the situation at the place in question, to get the story. The other group does all of the above BUT ONE THING IS MISSING -- check out the situation and speak with the homeowner to get the story. You are all concerned citizens and well you should be. You are citizens in a city or town. You have neighbors who are citizens. A suggestion...maybe you have tried this but have skipped this step somewhere along the way. Wouldn't it be easier to do a neighbor to neighbor call and work with the family that has an animal that needs help? If you start there you save the starving, injured, and freezing to death horse. (That's the goal right?) Just my opinion again for what its worth, you are trying to change the system in reverse. You are trying to tackle changing the laws first. Thats like moving into your new house before its built. Why not start at the foundation -- neighbor to neighbor. (Step One) Step two can be getting that horse taken care of. Step three can be professional documentation or proof. Step four - keep records....
5/21/2010 Missy
Been down the Steps 1-4 too many times to count. What's your Step 5, 6, 7 .......?
5/22/2010 Jan
"You are trying to tackle changing the laws first." I don't believe we have made many references to 'changing' the laws .. What we want is for the laws that are already clearly on the books to be enforced. Maine has some very good laws on the books ... if they were enforced properly!!
6/3/2010 Jan
Yippeeee!!!! DA Evert Fowle has made a huge move!!! WTG!!! Removing several animals from 'Foul Play Farm' - criminal charges pending against Brett and Alexis .. Now tell us that we have been all wrong!! Finally some justice for the horses!!

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