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State seeking permanent custody of horses from Montville farm

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Oakdale — The state is seeking permanent custody of eight “malnourished and severely neglected” horses seized from an Oakdale farm, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Laurel Ledge Farm owner Michelle Wilson, born 1957, was charged with nine counts of animal cruelty following a complaint from Montville Animal Control. She was arrested Sept. 24, 2020. Her arraignment in Norwich Superior Court is on Feb. 3. 

The state Department of Agriculture Animal Control Unit met with Wilson in 2020 and saw “severely underweight,” “extremely thin” and “unsound horses,” an Attorney General’s Office news release states.

“State animal control authorities urged the owner to consult with an equine veterinarian, who advised measures to improve the horses’ nutrition and health. When authorities returned to check on the condition of the horses, none of the medical care had been performed and the horses’ conditions had continued to deteriorate,” the release reads. “One horse, Tank, was suffering from a severe bone infection and was subsequently euthanized.”

After the second visit, the Department of Agriculture worked to gain custody of the horses and did in September of 2020, when they found a litany of further health issues. The horses were found to be without proper feeding, hoof care and dental care by equine veterinarians. All suffered from neglect and almost all faced lameness. One had a bacterial infection.

Another horse, named Bavaro, had to be euthanized. The other eight horses — Tristian, Regal, Avadon, Ember, Cabot, Sullivan, Sebastian and Bailey — have since recovered “substantially” in state care at Niantic’s Second Chance Large Animal Rehabilitation Program.

“No animal should suffer in this way,” Attorney General William Tong said. “These horses were severely malnourished and in visible pain. We are moving today for permanent custody to ensure these horses receive the care and respect all living creatures deserve. It is my hope that these horses will continue to thrive under state care, and will one day find new loving homes.”

In a separate legal matter, the Department of Agriculture is seeking permanent state custody of the horses. A motion filed by the department in Hartford Superior Court asks, too, that Wilson pay the department “daily compensation” for “temporary care of the animals,” the release noted.

“The top priority for our Animal Control Officers is to work with the owner to rectify the situation without removing the animals,” Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt said. “We encourage those experiencing tough times to seek out resources available at the local, state, and federal (levels) to ensure the needs and well-being of their animals are met.”

s.spinella@theday.com

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