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Some charges dismissed in animal cruelty case

The legal battle being waged in two courts over the 130 horses and other animals seized from an Aurora horse farm just entered its second year with no end in sight.

An Aurora town justice Thursday night dismissed 51 animal cruelty charges filed against Beth Hoskins over her care of the dozens of cats she kept.

But Hoskins still faces scores of misdemeanor charges over her treatment of the 73 horses seized in the SPCA Serving Erie County's March 2010 raid.

And the SPCA continues to fight Hoskins in State Supreme Court over the ever-rising bill the agency says it is running up for the 33 horses still under its care.

Hoskins' attorney said there's a good reason the closely watched dispute is taking so long to make its way through the criminal justice system.

"This is a test case as to the extent of the authority of the SPCA," said Thomas J. Eoannou.

Prosecutors and SPCA officials, however, seem to be growing frustrated with the slow pace of the criminal case.

"The people, or the prosecution, have been ready to try this case for many months, and we look forward to trying this case in front of a jury of Ms. Hoskins' peers," Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said.

The March 18, 2010, raid of Hoskins' Emery Road horse farm was one of the largest conducted by the SPCA in decades.

Agents seized 73 horses, 53 cats and four dogs from the property, alleging that most of the animals were neglected and living in unhealthy conditions.

Two cats and the dogs were returned soon after the raid, and one count of animal cruelty was added for an additional horse that was euthanized, producing a total of 125 misdemeanor charges, said SPCA spokeswoman Gina Browning.

Hoskins signed over ownership of 41 of the other 51 cats to the SPCA, and those were adopted out or, if they were feral, given to people who are willing to take feral cats.

One cat died and the other nine remain under the SPCA's care as the case moves on in court.

Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky on Thursday dismissed the 51 cat-related counts, leaving Hoskins to face 74 remaining counts over her treatment of her horses.

Browning said the SPCA wasn't notified about Thursday's court hearing and didn't find out about the ruling until she saw media reports Friday morning.

She said she can't understand the judge's decision because the SPCA presented photos and medical records showing the cats were neglected.

"We had the evidence. We had the conditions of the cats. How a judge says, 'That's OK,' is beyond me," Browning said.

Sedita said he hasn't seen a written order from Marky so he is not sure why the judge dismissed the charges. Once he finds out, Sedita said he and Assistant District Attorney G. Michael Drmacich will decide whether to appeal the decision, refile the charges or simply move on with the horse-related charges.

The SPCA also has sued Hoskins in State Supreme Court to force her to pay for the agency's care of the seized horses.

The SPCA also has been conducting regular inspections of Hoskins' property and Hoskins' attorney wants to end those visits.

News Staff Reporter Karen Robinson contributed to this report.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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