Case Snapshot
Case ID: 4823
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: horse
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Thursday, Mar 31, 2005

County: Worcester

Disposition: Convicted

Defendants/Suspects:
» Jerrold N. Arnowitz
» Maria Kelleghan

Case Updates: 6 update(s) available

An Upton couple faces animal cruelty charges for allegedly starving dozens of miniature horses at their farm.

Maria Kelleghan, 52, and Jerrold N. Arnowitz, 57, of 22 Oak Drive, will be arraigned on several animal cruelty charges June 27 in Milford District Court, according to a criminal complaint issued yesterday.

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' law enforcement division filed the charges, alleging the couple is not properly caring for the animals.

While a party reported the couple had up to 50 horses at one point, the division observed 27 to 30 skinny horses at the couple's home in late April, court records read. Tubs also had low water levels, preventing many horses from drinking, the MSPCA alleged.

An Uxbridge veterinarian notified the MSPCA that 15 horses a female client had obtained from the couple were in poor condition. MSPCA Sgt. Peter Oberton got a closer look at seven of them.

"All were thin with ribs, hips and spine prominent," he stated in court records.

Court records have different accounts on how the female client acquired the horses. The woman said she bought them, the MSPCA said in court papers, while Arnowitz said the woman didn't pay for them.

In late April, one of the 15 horses died and another had to be euthanized, court records read.

It is unclear whether any horses are still in the couple's care. Court records didn't say the MSPCA had removed the animals and the Oak Drive home and barn aren't visible from the street.

The court complaint noted the MSPCA was familiar with Kelleghan and Arnowitz from complaints it received in 2003 and 2004.


Case Updates

A deal between the defense and prosecution in a horse abuse case imposed numerous conditions and six years of probation on an Upton couple accused of neglecting the animals on their farm.

Judge Robert Calagione accepted the pretrial probation agreement for Jerrold Arnowitz and Maria Kelleghan, and noted "common sense should have prevailed about six months ago," when the pair first stood before him in Milford District Court.

"But based upon the recommendations made to me...I will accept this," Calagione said of the terms of probation.

Called "fair and reasonable," by defense lawyer Daniel Solomon, the agreement prohibits the couple from "owning, possessing or acquiring any interest in animals other than house pets," and requires them to remove any horses from their property within 30 days and sell them within four months.

"There was never any real criminal intent," Solomon said. "These are individuals who tried to get involved with mini horses, but due to a number of circumstances in their life, it got away from them."

Last April, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals visited the couple's Oak Drive farm, and observed up to 30 miniature horses. The MSPCA alleged the animals were in poor condition, and that their tubs had low water levels. In June, the MSPCA filed a complaint against Arnowitz and Kelleghan, charging them both with cruelty to animals by custodian.

Since then, the majority of horses have been sold or given to other breeders. Three remain on the farm, Solomon said.

The case has attracted interest from horse breeders across the region, several of whom attended almost all of the dozen court appearances since the summer.

"It makes good sense," said Cindy Moses of Bow, N.H., president of the Northeast Miniature Horse Club. "We're hoping that with the amount of (probation) time going by, they'll decide they're not interested in breeding horses ever again. I'm pleased this is going to be over, especially for the horses."

Several women who attended yesterday's proceedings said laws should be changed to further protect animals, noting the judge was unable to remove the horses from private property before a conviction or without the defendants' consent.

Arnowitz and Kelleghan also must give the Probation Department records of the horses' sale, including names and addresses of the buyers. In addition, the Probation Department or the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals may make unannounced, random visits to the couple's farm.

"The bottom line is, we don't want them handling any large animals," MSPCA Sgt. Peter Oberton said. "That's one of the things we've been pushing for from the very beginning."

Pretrial probation carries a $21 monthly administrative fee for each defendant. If the couple breaks the terms of the probation, their lawyer said, the case will be reopened and they will "go back to the drawing board."
Source: Milford Daily News - Feb 28, 2006
Update posted on Mar 6, 2006 - 1:51PM 
Upton couple Jerrold Arnowitz and Maria Kelleghan pleaded not guilty June 27, 2005, to charges of cruelty to animals by custodian. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a complaint June 16, 2005 against the pair for allegedly neglecting dozens of miniature horses on their Oak Drive farm. Since July 2005, the prosecution and defense have worked to develop plans for the horses' care while criminal charges are pending. Arnowitz and Kelleghan did not appear in court on January 6, 2005. Reached at home, Kelleghan said she and Arnowitz had a family medical emergency and thought their court date was next week. Judge Robert Calagione issued a default warrant for the couple's arrest if they failed to appear by the close of business, but Arnowitz stopped by the courthouse yesterday afternoon so the warrant wasn't put into effect. The case was continued but a new court date was not set. Defense attorney Daniel Solomon and Assistant District Attorney Robert Shea had hoped to present Calagione with conditions of pretrial probation for the couple. The agreement, while not acknowledging any wrongdoing on Arnowitz and Kelleghan's part, may have included the couple relinquishing care of the six horses that remain on their farm, Solomon said.

Meanwhile, members of Moses' group are concerned about the horses' health deteriorating the longer it takes to reach a resolution. This summer, the prosecution worked with Moses and other horse breeders, experts and owners and proposed a temporary plan that would place Arnowitz and Kelleghan's horses in the care of the Northeast Miniature Horse Club. While Calagione called the plan "well-intentioned and meritorious," he said he had no statutory authority to order its implementation without the couple being convicted. The MSPCA charged Arnowitz and Kelleghan each with five counts of cruelty to animals by custodian. The MSPCA's law enforcement division observed 27 to 30 skinny horses at the couple's farm in late April 2005. Tubs had low water levels, preventing many horses from drinking, the MSPCA alleged. During the summer, the couple voluntarily removed the majority of the horses from their farm, either by selling them or placing them in the care of other breeders and owners. They have kept six of the horses, their lawyer said. The defense has maintained the animals are being cared for better than they were at the time of the complaint, while the prosecution insists they aren't getting proper sustenance. MSPCA Sgt. Peter Oberton, whose agency permits him to seek a warrant to seize abused or neglected animals, has said he doesn't believe there is sufficient probable cause to go onto Arnowitz and Kelleghan's farm.
Moses is worried the horses will suffer in the cold, as when she visited the couple's farm in September 2005. She believed conditions were insufficient. "There's no shelter there, the last time anyone was there," she said. "The horses need to be warm, and have a constant source of fresh, unfrozen water. "There are no consequences," Moses said. "We can't do anything for the animals pending the outcome of these cases."
Source: Milford Daily News - January 6, 2006
Update posted on Jan 7, 2006 - 6:39PM 
Jerrold Arnowitz and Maria Kelleghan stood before Milford District Court Judge Robert Calagione yesterday for a pre-trial conference on their animal abuse case.

The couple, who continue to keep seven to eight miniature horses on their Oak Drive farm, was released without bail in July.

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a complaint June 16 against Arnowitz and Kelleghan, charging them each with five counts of cruelty to animals by custodian. The complaint shows the agency's law enforcement division observed 27 to 30 skinny horses at the couple's farm in late April. Tubs had low water levels, preventing many horses from drinking, the MSPCA alleged.
Source: Milford Daily News - Aug 13, 2005
Update posted on Aug 13, 2005 - 12:20PM 
An Upton couple charged with neglecting horses were released on their own recognizance yesterday and continue to keep the animals on their farm.

Seven or eight miniature horses, and an additional horse that was recently born, remain on the Oak Drive farm of Jerrold Arnowitz and Maria Kelleghan.

"We just had a new baby," said Arnowitz, who represented himself and Kelleghan at yesterday's arraignment continuation. "I would've brought cigars..."

"Congratulations," stated Milford District Court Judge Robert Calagione, who said Thursday he was powerless to remove the miniature horses from the farm unless the couple was convicted.

The couple will return to court Aug. 12 for a pre-trial hearing.

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a complaint June 16 against Arnowitz and Kelleghan, charging them each with five counts of cruelty to animals by custodian, a felony. The complaint shows the agency's law enforcement division saw as many as 30 skinny horses at the couple's farm in late April. Tubs had low water levels, preventing many horses from drinking, the MSPCA alleged.

The couple pleaded not guilty June 27, and since then, have removed all but seven or eight of the horses from the property and placed them in the care of other breeders and owners.

The prosecution asked Calagione to order Arnowitz and Kelleghan not to "possess, handle or stable," the horses while the criminal charges were pending.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Shea had worked with a group of concerned horse breeders, experts and owners to propose a temporary care plan that would place the horses in the care of the Northeast Miniature Horse Club. While the judge called the plan "well-intentioned and meritorious," he said he had no statutory authority to order its implementation.

After listening last week to defense attorney Daniel Solomon's "middle ground" plan, which would move all the horses from the Oak Drive property to breeders of Arnowitz' and Kelleghan's choice, Calagione was prepared Thursday to issue an order to remove the animals and set up care guidelines

But despite proposing a similar plan last week, Solomon backed away from the judge's plan, which could not legally be enforced unless the couple agreed to it.

The defense maintains that the animals are being cared for better than they were at the time of the complaint, while the prosecution insists they aren't getting proper sustenance.

MSPCA Sgt. Peter Oberton, whose agency permits him to seek a warrant to seize abused or neglected animals, has said he doesn't believe there is sufficient probable cause to go onto Arnowitz' and Kelleghan's farm.
Source: Milford Daily News - July 9, 2005
Update posted on Jul 9, 2005 - 4:53AM 
A judge is expected to decide today who should take care of 30 miniature horses allegedly mistreated at an Upton farm. Milford District Judge Robert Calagione was hoping to rule on the horses' future at a hearing in the case of horse owners Jerrold Arnowitz and Maria Kelleghan, who are facing charges of cruelty to animals.

A lawyer for Arnowitz and Kelleghan told the judge last week that they had moved most of their horses to ''reputable horse breeders" while planning to keep five and take better care of them.

But a prosecutor said the horses needed special care and demanded that all be sent to the Northeast Miniature Horse Society, where plans have been made to rehabilitate them.

In April, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals launched an investigation into the couple's Upton farm after receiving complaints that conditions there were squalid and that horses lacked proper care. Arnowitz and Kelleghan were arraigned June 27 and pleaded not guilty to charges that they failed to provide their animals proper food and a sanitary environment.

The couple have said that illness in the family hindered their ability to care for the horses and that the condition of the horses is improving.

Daniel Solomon, the couple's lawyer, emphasized at a hearing Friday that the horses were the couple's property and raised concerns about the state's liability if it took them away.

''Horses do have rights, but they are also assets," Solomon told the judge. ''I understand the court has wide discretion, but obviously that discretion is not unlimited."

If the state's plan is adopted, he said, the state would be liable for any damages incurred in the event of such things as a natural disaster. A better plan, he said, would be a voluntary transfer of the horses to places where the MSPCA would be able to monitor them in weekly inspections.

Prosecutor Robert Shea argued that the law not only requires decent treatment of the animals, but that the horses now need special care that the owners' plan would not provide. ''I'm saying the horses will not be receiving the necessary sustenance that they are statutorily entitled to under the law," Shea said.

Given their poor health and unusually thin condition, ''they are entitled to the highest-quality sustenance," he said.

Cheri Ezell-VanderSluis -- director of Maple Farm Sanctuary, an animal sanctuary in Mendon -- said she was delivering bales of hay to the Upton farm about five years ago when she noticed that the horses appeared to be infected with parasites and were generally in poor health.

She and about a dozen other miniature-horse enthusiasts eventually managed to persuade the MSPCA to launch its investigation.

Dawn Tessier, an Uxbridge horse judge and trainer, and her sister, Jodie-May Rose, a stable manager, said they started buying as many of the horses as they could afford and urged others to do the same to spare them from the poor conditions.

Tessier said horse-abuse cases are trickier than cases involving abuses of cats and dogs. It's not as easy to find homes for horses, she said, because they are far more expensive to care for, particularly in cases in which veterinary bills run high.

In a confrontation outside the courthouse Friday, Arnowitz told nearly a dozen trainers and breeders who have questioned his treatment of the horses that, while the horses had lost significant weight during the winter, his veterinarian had determined that their health had improved.

''They love me, and I love them," he said of his horses.

''It's unconscionable," Tessier fired back.

Calagione said Friday he needed more time to gather information on state power over privately owned livestock, but hoped to decide the horses' future today.

Miniature horses are typically under 38 inches tall. Enthusiasts say they offer the joys of owning a horse while taking up less space and requiring less food.
Source: Boston.Com - July 7, 2005
Update posted on Jul 7, 2005 - 10:39AM 
A couple accused of neglecting dozens of miniature horses on their Upton farm were arraigned on animal cruelty charges, and given until the end of the week to craft a plan to care for the animals.

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals filed charges against Maria Kelleghan and Jerrold Arnowitz after about 30 malnourished horses were found living in unsanitary conditions on their farm in April.

A report by Sgt. Peter Oberton of the MSPCA in April said he observed 27 to 30 miniature horses were dangerously thin, in poor health and living in squalid conditions on the farm.

On Monday, Kelleghan and Arnowitz were arraigned in Milford District Court on five charges of animal cruelty, including failure to provide proper food and failure to provide a proper sanitary environment for the animals.

Judge Robert B. Calagione gave the couple and their veterinarian until Friday to present an acceptable plan to care for the animals while the case is pending, or face losing custody of the horses.

The MSPCA said it had investigated complaints at the farm in 2003 and 2004.

A number of miniature horse owners and breeders from across New England converged on the courthouse, with horse trailers and some miniature horses in tow, to urge Calagione to order the remaining miniature horses to be removed from the property. Several of the breeders and owners said they were willing to take custody of the miniature horses.

However, Calagione said he had reservations about placing the animals in the custody of people who were not state agents, adding that said such an action would violate the couple's right to due process.

MSPCA officials said the horses were in better health following the agency's investigation.
Source: Boston Globe - June 28, 2005
Update posted on Jun 28, 2005 - 6:24PM 

References

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