Remaining charge dismissed against horse rescuer

Mona Kanciper on her farm in Manorville on

Mona Kanciper on her farm in Manorville on South Street. (April 25, 2012) (Credit: James Carbone)

The head of a horse rescue group who had been acquitted of animal cruelty charges had her last remaining misdemeanor charge thrown out by an appellate court this week.

Mona Kanciper, 50, head of Manorville-based New York Horse Rescue, was tried last year on charges of animal cruelty and misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child. Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson found her not guilty of the animal cruelty charges in a nonjury trial, but convicted her of the misdemeanor for tranquilizing a dog in front of a young girl before euthanizing it.

The state Appellate Division, Second Department ruled this week that the evidence didn't support the conviction.

"There was no evidence demonstrating that the child was aware, at the time she witnessed the injection, that the defendant intended to euthanize the dog later that day, or that she was upset by seeing the dog receive the tranquilizer injection," Justice Daniel Angiolillo wrote in the decision. The girl had seen her own pet dog get many injections for diabetes, he wrote.

The court dismissed the indictment, which prevents prosecutors from retrying the case.

"It's a total vindication," said Laurie Hershey, Kanciper's appellate attorney.

The district attorney's office declined to comment.

"It was so ridiculous," Kanciper said. "It was such a waste of everything -- taxpayers' money, my life." She had been sentenced to 3 years' probation, but it was stayed pending the outcome of her appeal.

New York Horse Rescue has saved more than 1,500 horses since 1999, Kanciper has said. The criminal charges came after a March 2010 raid on her farm by the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a nonprofit group authorized by state law to investigate such cases.

Kanciper said the investigation ruined her reputation and her business teaching horseback riding.

SPCA officers looked for evidence that horses were being abused and found none. They charged Kanciper with abusing dogs. As a result of the raid and the criminal case, Kanciper filed state and federal suits against the SPCA, calling it a rogue operation that should be disbanded.

Those suits are pending, said her civil attorney, Alan Sash.

In a statement released by its attorney, the SPCA said: "We strongly believe that Ms. Kanciper's federal and state lawsuits . . . are wholly without merit, and are confident that we will be fully vindicated once these litigations run their course. As to today's ruling reversing Ms. Kanciper's conviction, we respect the court's decision."

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