Share this article

print logo

Contrasting views as Hoskins trial opens; Prosecutor in opening statement paints case of animal abuse at farm

The storylines in the case of animal abuse against Beth Lynne Hoskins have been known almost from the day she was charged in 2010 with neglecting the dozens of Morgan horses she kept on her Aurora farm:

She is either a woman who could not or would not provide the kind of care and attention they needed or she was the victim of an overzealous SPCA.

As her nonjury criminal trial on 74 misdemeanor counts of animal abuse got under way Monday in Aurora Town Court with opening statements before Justice Douglas W. Marky, it appears the theme is unchanged.

"This is a case of animal abuse by neglect," Assistant District Attorney Michael Drmacich said, later ticking off all 74 horses' names. "This is not a case where we just have some horses that got muddy in the springtime."

In stark contrast, defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou insisted that the SPCA wrongly charged his client under a section of the state Agriculture & Markets Law that doesn't apply to the conditions the agency cited.

"This is not an animal abuse case. The proof will show, at the end of the day, that Beth Hoskins never should have been brought into this court and charged," Eoannou said. "It is a breeding farm. Horses are bred and fed. They are like cows, livestock. They are not like dogs or cats."

Hoskins initially was charged with 125 misdemeanor counts under the state statute though cat-related charges were later dismissed.

She arrived at court Monday with a black suitcase on wheels in tow. Her 7-year-old daughter, Alex, did not accompany her, as often has been the case at numerous court appearances.

Hoskins continues to care for 40 of her horses, which were returned to her in July 2010 by a judge in the civil case, while the SPCA retains control over 32 of her other horses under foster care.

The prosecutor on Monday detailed what he described as deplorable conditions for the horses, including inadequate food and water, insufficient dental and ferrier care, less than ideal lighting and cramped conditions in some of the stalls. Many were living on loose, unpacked manure, some as deep as two feet, with the exception of four horses, including "Ice Man," he said.

"Multiple veterinarians will testify how these unsanitary conditions caused the animals to suffer," he said, noting there also will be testimony about how unacceptable it is to have free-roaming horses, as Hoskins did with 23 of them in a one of her barns.

Eoannou said he will bring in the best experts in the country to prove that fecal packs the horses were standing upon do not equate to cruelty.

"The important thing is the SPCA knows this. Beth knows this," he said, noting that de-worming and vaccinations are a matter of choice. "Do not let this court be misled that it's about dirty/unsanitary [conditions]. That's the mistake they made Day 1. Unsanitary has nothing to do with this case. You're not going to see, Judge, one case of animal cruelty."

"Beth is here because she did not buckle and refused to give up her horses," Eoannou said. "She's withstood a torrent of public [criticism] at the hands of the SPCA public relations machine. She hasn't wavered once because she's been around breed farms since she was 3."

The prosecutor didn't stop with the overall condition of the 73 horses, and went out of his way to highlight the case of "Misty," who had to be euthanized by a Springville veterinarian whom Hoskins summoned to her farm on Nov. 26, 2009 and had to be euthanized. Misty's situation led to the 74th count against Hoskins.

"The vet arrived and found Misty lying on the ground, severely dehydrated and weak. She couldn't lift her head," Drmacich said. "She had to euthanize her. The defendant's neglect caused Misty's suffering and caused her euthanization."

Eoannou insisted the SPCA cannot show one horse that was not standing or had to be taken to Cornell University's clinic treatment. "What you are going to hear about is total chaos at a herd farm," he said.

"You'll get a subjective guess by a prosecution building an animal cruelty case against Beth Hoskins," he said of the animals' weight.

"When Beth Hoskins has an abscess in one of her animal's feet, it's animal cruelty," Eoannou said. But when the SPCA detects an abscess on one of her horses under their care, "it's a common occurrence," he said.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 4:15 p.m. May 29 in Town Court. It's not clear how long the trial will take -- some weeks it will be in court only once, other weeks as often as three times -- but Eoannou has said he believes it will take six to eight weeks.