On March 10, thoroughbred horse owner and breeder Ernie Paragallo was convicted of 33 out of 34 counts of animal cruelty in a non jury trial in Greene County, NY. Good for all concerned.
Mr. Paragallo owned a farm where over 160 horses were found to have been maltreated in April, 2009. As a result, his owners’ license was revoked by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board and he is scheduled to be sentenced in April on these convictions.
Paragallo’s conviction should send several important messages.
1. Owners and trainers have a high standard to live up to. They are charged with making sure horses in their ownership or care are treated properly and not abandoned. There are a number of terrific organizations – the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund, Equine Advocates, Exceller Fund, Re-Run and others – who care for horses and help adopt them out. If you find you can no longer care for your horse, contact these organizations. They will find a way to help avoid misfortune the likes of Mr. Paragallo.
2. The industry needs to make sure people involved in racing are not going to turn their backs on horses after their racing career is over. It may mean a financial commitment, and even a moral one, but horses cannot speak for themselves. Clearly the Racing and Wagering Board can only do so much.
3. Racing does not need any more negative stories. We need to take the initiative to accentuate the positive, so that we can attract a fan base. Presently the wagering and attendance are both dropping and we will continue to see that trend if the industry does not do something to correct it.
If anything positive can come from Paragallo’s conviction, it is that those in the racing industry need to come together to protect it.