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JUDGE SAYS DISMISSAL OF ANIMAL CRUELTY CHARGES WAS WRONG

Chautauqua County Court Judge John T. Ward has overturned a lower court decision dismissing animal cruelty charges against an out-of-state woman who housed several horses in the Town of Chautauqua.

District Attorney James P. Subjack said Ward stated in his decision that Chautauqua Town Justice David Narducci "erroneously" dropped the eight counts of failure to provide sustenance to an animal against Cheryl A. Parkhurst. Subjack's office appealed the decision, and the district attorney said Wednesday he was pleased with Ward's action.

"The implications of the lower court decision were numerous, and this decision puts all those concerns to rest," he said.

Ms. Parkhurst, who Subjack believes now lives in West Virginia, was originally charged on July 22, 1998. The owner of the Route 430 farm where she was keeping the horses alerted the Chautauqua County Humane Society that the horses were not being properly cared for.

A court order was obtained, and the horses were taken by State Police, who turned the animals over to the Humane Society until the case was disposed of. Ms. Parkhurst was accused of failing to adequately feed the horses.

Narducci dismissed the charges last Dec. 18, said Subjack, based on his interpretation that since papers incorporating the Humane Society contained the word "prevention," it must first prevent before it can enforce.

"That's not the law," Subjack said. "That's not what they're bound to do. They have enforcement powers statutorily and within their own charter. So what they did was proper."

Now that the prosecution can continue, Subjack said it will.

"If the defendant no longer resides within the area . . . we shall ask the court to issue a warrant for her return, in the event she does not voluntarily return on her own," he said.

If convicted of the Agriculture and Markets Law violations, Ms. Parkhurst faces a possible fine or jail time.

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