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Easton Readers Debate Animal Cruelty Charge

EASTON, Conn. – Several readers of The Daily Easton became vocal about a recent story on the arrest of Paul Vittorio, owner of Pee Wee Horse Farm, and one of the six counts of animal cruelty he faces.

Vittorio turned himself in at police headquarters last week after a warrant was issued for his arrest by the State Animal Control Division. The charges stem from an investigation of the alleged mistreatment of several horses on the Silver Hill Road farm.

Vittorio faces five counts of animal cruelty in connection with five horses seized from his farm in December. The sixth charge is based on 70 horses on his farm that did not have adequate shelter.

Reader DavidA wrote: “Not feeding or caring for horses is one thing, not providing shelter is another. Anyone who has traveled out West understands that many horses roam free and are quite healthy. If shelter is the standard, then there are other horse farms in town that also have horses outside – do we charge and arrest those owners, too?”

In a later post, DavidA went on to say: “I just think it seems like overcharging to also bring in that the horses had no shelter.” DavidA said he just wanted to see consistency within the law in regard to horse farms across the state.

“My point is that this issue is more about the animals not being cared for and less about whether or not they have a barn because if it becomes about the latter then for consistency in the enforcement of our laws all other horse farms that do not have stalls or covered shelter for each and every horse need to be charged.”

Reader Hooch wrote: “I have spent time out West and the key here is 'roam free.' The horses in question here were not roaming free, with access to forage and wind breaks, but standing in enclosures in mud, totally dependent on their caretaker for their well-being.”

We asked Ray Connors, supervisor of the State Animal Control Division of the Department of Agriculture, to clarify the sixth count of animal cruelty against Vittorio. Connors said 30 horses on the property had adequate shelter but more than 70 others were exposed to severe weather.

Under state statute, he said, horses must be able to escape certain weather conditions, such as rain or snow, when housed in a small facility such as Pee Wee Horse Farm. “There is a difference between wild horses or horses that are able to run free. These horses were confined to small areas and had no way of escaping the elements,” he said.

According to court documents, on several occasions during the fall and winter of 2011, state animal control officers arrived at the farm during severe rain storms. On several occasions, court documents state, “Most of the horses were without shelter in pouring, cold rain and standing in mud.”

Connors said that during those visits by state officers, “Many of the horses were showing signs of distress” from exposure to the elements.

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