New York Rescue Operator Faces Fraud, Cruelty Charges

The operator of a New York equine rescue is facing multiple charges for allegedly defrauding financial contributors and for allegedly maltreating several horses in her care.

Chenango County Sheriff Ernie Cutting said that Stephanie Algiere-Hanchett, operator of the A Ton of Love Draft Horse Rescue in Guilford, is accused of using Facebook and other Internet sites to solicit funds to underwrite surgery for a horse residing at the rescue. Sheriff's department personnel began investigating the case in June after a tipster reported visiting the rescue.

"A local person went to the rescue to see the horse and found there had been no surgery," Cutting said.

Several other complaints about the alleged fund-raising scheme followed and in all, about $900 was collected in the alleged surgery scheme, Cutting said.

During the investigation, sheriff's department personnel and a veterinarian visited the rescue. Of the eight horses residing there, five animals were determined to be in need of veterinary and other care, Cutting said. All five were seized and placed under rehabilitative care, he said.

"Since the seizure, two horses have died, one is not doing well, and two are on the road to recovery," Cutting said.

Andy Baker, whose wife Traci is the new owner of the horse connected to the alleged fundraising scheme said the horse has undergone surgery to remove a large umbilical hernia.

"He’s recovering very, very well," Baker said.

On June 16, Algiere-Hanchett was charged with 11 counts of scheme to defraud in connection with the fundraising. She was also charged with five counts of felony animal cruelty.

Algiere-Hanchett was unavailable for comment.

In recent years the Internet has developed into useful tools for linking charities with prospective supporters. However attorney Milt Toby has advice for prospective donors who connect with charities online: "The safest advice is to not be swayed by a flashy website or social media ads soliciting 'emergency' funds to keep an animal from being sold for slaughter or for whatever reason, and only donate to rescues and other charities about which you have personal knowledge. A personal recommendation from someone you trust is the next best thing. You also can contact humane societies in the area where a charity is located. If there is a problem, they usually will know about it."

Prospective donors may also research an organization's status through the Attorney General's office in the state in which the charity is incorporated, or at online services such as guidestar.org, which post information and consumer comments about charitable organizations nationwide.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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