Horse rescuer acquitted of cruelty charges

A Manorville horse rescuer was acquitted Thursday of aggravated animal cruelty after a nonjury trial in Suffolk County Court.

During his explanation of his verdict, Judge James Hudson said the prosecution did not offer any objective evidence of cruelty by Mona Kanciper, owner of Butler Farms and New York Horse Rescue. She was charged with three counts of aggravated animal cruelty, a felony, for euthanizing three dogs.

Hudson said the evidence showed there was justification for each of the euthanizations. He did, however, convict her of a single misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child, for beginning one of the euthanizations while a horse riding student was present.

"I'm very happy that I was vindicated on the more serious charges," said Kanciper, who said she will appeal the remaining charge.

"I truly believe the judgment of the court dispels any notion that she acted in a cruel manner," said her defense attorney Paul Gianelli.

He said the evidence supporting the child endangerment charge was weak. "The young lady on the stand could not even remember what the dog looked like," he said.

Throughout the case, Kanciper was supported by many in the animal rescue community. Annemarie Lucas, an animal cruelty investigator often featured on the "Animal Precinct" television show, said the idea that Kanciper could be cruel to animals was absurd.

"She has always been a compassionate horse rescuer," Lucas said. "I feel sorry for all the animals who won't be rescued because of all this."

Kanciper, however, said she will continue to rescue horses. She said she took one in on Wednesday, in fact.

Suffolk prosecutors declined to comment.

Kanciper and Gianelli said the charges were the result of unfounded accusations that swirled on Internet message boards while Butler Farms was in turmoil as her husband, veterinarian Dr. Judson Butler, was in ill health before he died in 2009.

"It was gossiping at its worst form," Gianelli said.

Kanciper last month filed a $25 million suit against the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which first brought the charges against her.

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