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At Hoskins trial, vet tells of euthanized horse

The veterinarian who euthanized one of Beth Lynne Hoskins' horses on Thanksgiving Day 2009 testified Tuesday in Hoskins' animal cruelty trial that the mare was too weak to lift her head and had exposed ribs, protruding hip bones and emaciated hind quarters.

Those conditions left Dr. Katherine Fitzgerald no choice but to recommend to Hoskins, who agreed to it, that "Misty" be euthanized, she said in Aurora Town Court under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Michael Drmacich.

Fitzgerald -- who has worked for Springville Veterinary Services since June 2007 -- was the prosecution's first witness in the nonjury criminal trial of Hoskins on 74 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty stemming from the March 18, 2010, raid on Hoskins' Morgan horse farm by the SPCA Serving Erie County.

Hoskins' attorney, Thomas J. Eoannou, verbally hammered Fitzgerald on the stand in cross-examination -- noting that she could not unequivocally say that Misty's demise was directly due to inadequate food or water supply. Eoannou suggested her condition could have resulted from chronic stress syndrome. He said that weight loss and dehydration can be caused by a number of factors, to which Fitzgerald agreed.

In fact, Eoannou pointed out in the veterinary practice's medical documents that Hoskins previously sought medical treatment for Misty through Fitzgerald's boss, Dr. Joseph J. Tashjian, whom he referred to as "Dr. Joe" and who provided the bulk of veterinary care at the Hoskins farm.

Fitzgerald was summoned to Hoskins' Emery Road farm in Aurora on Nov. 26, 2009, after Hoskins called for assistance for another horse with an eye problem. When Fitzgerald arrived, though, Hoskins told her another horse was down and needed attention in what was described as the "blue tarp" barn.

The animal cruelty count tied to Misty came after Fitzgerald filed a deposition in July 2010, four months after the SPCA raid and eight months after euthanizing the mare. It is the only charge against Hoskins involving an animal that died. Hoskins previously attributed Misty's condition to old age and complications from a hip injury the horse suffered before Hoskins bought her in 2004.

Fitzgerald said she found Misty lying on her right side in an aisle between rows of stalls. "She was unable to get up. I picked up her head and tried to help her move and tuck her front legs under her," she said under questioning by Drmacich. Given her thin condition, signs of dehydration and failing blood circulation, there was nothing she could do to help, she said.

"She was emaciated," Fitzgerald testified, noting that the horse's teeth could have been "floated" to file them down to help her eat better and that the horse could have been dewormed. "You can't get food in them if they cannot stand. There was nothing to her. Misty had not received proper care up until then, and that led to her condition."

Eoannou criticized Fitzgerald's characterization, noting what he said were inconsistencies in notes from meeting with Drmacich and in her deposition. He also noted that "Dr. Joe" was the main veterinarian caring for Hoskins' horses and that Hoskins on Oct. 28, 2005, contacted him because she was concerned Misty was thin. Medical records reflected that Hoskins went to the veterinarian about her thinness, dull coat and lack of weight gain despite de-wormings.

Eoannou also noted that Fitzgerald had never treated Misty until the day Fitzgerald had to euthanize her and was not thoroughly familiar with her medical record.

"You don't know what Beth did with Dr. Joe to make sure Misty got better," he told Fitzgerald.

Eoannou pressed Fitzgerald to name one horse in the 10 to 15 that have died at the Hoskins farm. Fitzgerald could only name "Tia," saying she did not know the others' names. When pressed further, she said she did not know the exact number that have had to be put down.

Fitzgerald was on the stand for nearly three hours and was the only witness to testify in the second day of the trial before Aurora Justice Douglas W. Marky. The trial resumes at 4:15 p.m. Thursday.