Horse Owner Given Probation in Massachusetts Euthanasia Case

A Milford, Mass., horse owner who refused to euthanize his ailing mare despite the recommendations of veterinarians will be under probation for two years. Judge Thomas F. Sullivan Jr. continued the case for the duration of the probationary period after horse owner Elliot S. Saffran admitted the prosecution presented sufficient facts for a guilty finding.

As conditions of probation, Saffran is to perform 50 hours of community service or give a $1,000 donation to Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He will have to pay witness and monthly probation fees, and he agreed to undergo any type of evaluation or treatment requested by his probation officer. Other than the dog he currently owns, he is not to own or be in control of any pets or domestic livestock for the duration of his probation.

He was also ordered not to contact any of the 15 people on the trial's prospective witness list.

If Saffran were to violate these guidelines, he would return to court, at which time a judge could impose a stronger sentence and a guilty finding in the case, according to Tim Connolly, spokesman for the Worcester County District Attorney's Office.

Quincy walking video.

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Saffran was charged with animal cruelty in January 2008 after he refused to act on the advice of veterinarians to euthanize Quincy, a 29-year-old mare, who suffered from multiple ailments, including crippling arthritis. Instead, Saffran agreed to relocate the horse to Fairfield Equine Associates veterinary hospital in Newtown, Conn., in April. Quincy remained under Fairfield's care until her death on Aug. 10, 2008.

According to Jane Belleville, owner of a barn where Quincy was formerly boarded, more than 30 equine advocates attended the first day of Saffran's trial to show their support for Quincy.

Assistant District Attorney Robert J. Pellegrini called area veterinarian Joseph Merriam, DVM, MS, who had examined Quincy, to explain her ailments and give his opinion on her condition and level of pain. Veterinarians from Fairfield Equine Associates and Tufts University were also on hand to weigh in, although they were not called before the case was resolved.

Belleville said evidence included large images and radiographs of Quincy's deformed knee, as well as a decubitus ulcer--a result of spending prolonged time in recumbency--on her right hip. The ulcer developed into osteomyelitis, a bone infection.

"There were a couple observers that had to leave the courtroom crying on hearing the description of Quincy's wounds and legs," Belleville said. Video of Quincy, which had been a point of contention between the parties involved in the case, was also entered into evidence.

"It appeared as though we were presenting a strong case--then today Mr. Saffran decided to plea," Connolly said.

"It was an unbelievable morning," Belleville said of the development. "Whether or not it's precedent-setting I don't know, because we didn't get a jury conviction, but it does show that people cannot treat their animals like this."

Massachusetts' animal cruelty laws do not specifically recognize failure to euthanize sick or injured animals as cruelty, according to attorney Diane Sullivan, professor of law at the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, Mass., and architect of the school's animal welfare law curriculum.

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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