Connecticut Ag Department Gets Custody of Seized Herd

A judge in Hartford, Connecticut, awarded the state’s Department of Agriculture custody of 32 horses seized last month from their owners.

Last fall, an East Hampton, Connecticut, animal control officer responded to a complaint from an owner who had leased four horses to Thomas and Melanie Olajos, who bred Frisian, Andalusian, and Gypsy Vanner horses at Fairy Trail Equine Facility. The complainant stated that the horses were all emaciated when she retrieved them; a veterinarian later diagnosed those horses with malnutrition and parasite infestation. Department of Agricultural animal control officers subsequently visited the farm and found no hay or grain available to the horses, and that nearly half of the horses on the property were underweight displaying signs of malnutrition including muscle wasting, protruding hip bones, and visible ribs and spines. Thomas Olajos was subsequently instructed to provide the animals with hay and clean water and to obtain professional veterinary and farrier services for the animals. In December 2015, inspectors found that the horses did not have access to food or water.

On Feb. 2, Department of Agriculture seized 32 horses, along with dogs and other animals, from Fairy Trail Equine Center.

On March 4, Thomas and Melanie Olajos were arrested and each charged with 35 counts of animal cruelty. Of those, 32 counts were directly connected to the 32 seized horses.

On March 8, Hartford Superior Court Judge Nina Elgo awarded permanent custody of the herd to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. Steve Jensen, Department of Agriculture representative, said the ruling was based on an agreement between the department and the horses' former owners that was struck just before the hearing was to begin. The deal allows the state to seek new homes for the horses.

The Olajos' attorney, Ryan McGuigan, said his clients made the agreement in the animals' interest.

“My clients have agreed to relinquish custody and control of the animals … so that the animals can find good homes,” McGuigan said.

Thomas and Melanie Olajos are slated to appear in court to answer the charges on March 15, McGuigan said.

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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