Local woman cited for cruelty to horses

NEW HAVEN — Laura Armell, 24, of New Haven faces criminal animal cruelty charges relating to the death of two horses, and the apparent mistreatment of a third.
On April 14, the Vermont State Police and the Addison County Humane Society (ACHS) responded to a report of animal cruelty at Armell’s home on Field Days Road in New Haven. When he arrived, Trooper Joseph Szarejko found two dead horses and a third horse that was severely emaciated.
Szarejko said that Armell’s boyfriend, William Wright, who also lived on the property, claimed that the horses had had stomach ulcers and were unable to eat. He told Szarejko he had made plans for the horses to be buried the next day.
A veterinary investigation found no evidence of stomach ulcers, but instead found the two horses had died of starvation. The report said the horses had been dead for anywhere from seven days to three weeks.
Szarejko reported that Armell asked that the two deceased horses to be buried behind the barn on her property, and that she wanted to keep the one still alive. But due to the fact she had already been issued a warning from the humane society and due to the severity of the horses’ conditions, the VSP and humane society representatives convinced her to part with the three horses.
According to Jackie Rose, executive director of ACHS, the third horse, which is around three years old, is recovering well in foster care at her facility and the agency will be looking for another owner.
The VSP issued Armell a civil citation. The citation was later withdrawn by the state’s attorney, and the criminal animal cruelty charges were filed. She is scheduled to appear in court in Middlebury on June 14.
Rose said that on the scale of cases she normally responds to, this was one of the worst. It is part of a worrying trend, though — she said that this report was just one of a rising number of calls that the agency gets.
“It’s fair to say that the economy has had an impact on cases like this,” she said. “Horses are expensive animals.”
She said that around 30 percent of the animal cruelty reports ACHS gets result in her agency needing to take action. The other 70 percent are either small violations that the owners voluntarily fix, or they are false alarms. But it is better that people report their suspicions, she said, than those cases go unreported.
“I would much rather people call us, we go out and there’s not a problem,” Rose said.
And preventing this sort of case relies heavily on the owners, too, she said. Had Armell reached out to the ACHS, Rose added, she could have gotten support, including donations of hay and other supplies, to help her care for the horses.
“When you’re in this kind of situation, you reach out and get help,” she said. “These people knew that there were resources and did not avail themselves of them.”
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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