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Horse rescue group head settles with Suffolk SPCA

Mona Kanciper, head of a leading horse rescue

Mona Kanciper, head of a leading horse rescue group, on her farm in Manorville on April 25, 2012. Credit: James Carbone

The head of a horse rescue group and the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have settled two lawsuits she filed -- after she was arrested on animal cruelty charges, for which she was ultimately cleared.

The terms of the settlement were sealed, but both sides said they were pleased that years of litigation were over.

"We are pleased to have resolved these matters with Ms. Kanciper," Roy Gross, chief of the SPCA, said in a prepared statement.

"We wish Ms. Kanciper well in her future endeavors."

The litigation was spawned by a 2010 raid on Mona Kanciper's Manorville horse farm.

SPCA officers went looking for evidence of horse abuse and found none, but charged her with abusing dogs. Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson acquitted her of those charges in a 2011 nonjury trial, but convicted her of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, for euthanizing a dog in a young girl's presence.

An appellate court later threw out that conviction, ruling there was no evidence of a crime.

The federal suit said the SPCA, a nonprofit group based in Smithtown and authorized by state law to investigate animal cruelty cases, improperly got search warrants to dig up Kanciper's farm and search her house, refused to let her call her attorney and held her captive during a March 2010 raid.

"A whole swarm of people came, thinking I'd killed all these horses," she said when the suits were filed.

"It was devastating."

Her group, New York Horse Rescue, has saved more than 1,500 mistreated horses since 1999, she has said. She also teaches horseback riding.

Kanciper said she is now focused on her pending federal lawsuit against Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota and former Assistant District Attorney Leonard Lato for their roles in her prosecution.

That suit charges that after two other prosecutors said there was no case against Kanciper, Lato revived it and came to the farm to observe the SPCA's search, and that Spota exercised no control over him.

"I always colored between the lines," Kanciper said, saying she never did anything wrong. "I think what Lato and Spota did was just despicable."

A spokesman for Spota declined to comment.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt ruled that Lato and Spota's actions were not covered by prosecutorial immunity, which protects prosecutors for their actions in court.

It does not cover investigative or administrative actions, Spatt ruled.

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