Long Distance DedicationJune 15th, 2004
(Fulton County, New York) Every day, ALDF is inundated with phone calls about animal legal issues. Sometimes the response can be as simple as a quick conversation or a follow-up e-mail. And sometimes it can lead to a lot more — like a last-minute plane ride across the country.
When Senior Attorney Dana Campbell of ALDF’s Anti-Cruelty Division recently found out about an impending miscarriage of justice that threatened dozens of animals, she knew she had to take quick action. And it didn’t matter that the animals were in upstate New York — a continent away from the Anti-Cruelty Division’s Portland, Ore., offices. Campbell winged her way from the Pacific Northwest to the East. In the process, she helped save the animals from near-certain suffering...and perhaps death.
The case first grabbed headlines in the Empire State late last year, when authorities seized 230 animals from Dr. James Fagan and his wife Henriette of Fulton County. The animals — including horses, rabbits, goats, guinea pigs, at least 36 wolfhounds and a variety of other species — were being kept in squalid, unhealthy conditions. Many appeared to be starving, and there were even indications that some had resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. At least six of the animals were already dead, and several others died soon afterward.
It was a hellish scene, according to the animal rescuer workers who saw it first-hand.
Although the Fagans could have been charged with up to 230 counts of misdemeanor neglect, prosecutors waited months to bring a single charge. In the meantime, animal welfare organizations and individuals across the state cared for the animals taken from the Fagans. Because criminal charges had not yet been brought, these good Samaritans were unable to apply for a “cost of care” bond requiring the Fagans to pay the costs until trial. As a result, these organizations racked up tens of thousands of dollars in care-related expenses with no way of knowing if they’d ever be reimbursed.
But there was another, far-greater concern than money for these groups: The Fulton County District Attorney’s office told some of them to prepare to return about 30 animals to the Fagans. A hearing was scheduled in the Town of Oppenheim Justice Court, and there was every indication the D.A. would cut a plea deal allowing the Fagans to take their animals back.
Pete the horse ended up nearly 500 pounds underweight while living on the Fagan's property. That’s when Campbell got involved. Alerted to the situation by the Fulton County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Spring Farm CARES, a nonprofit animal sanctuary, Campbell flew to New York immediately. Once on the ground in Fulton County, she worked to swing the spotlight of the local media onto the case, organizing a press conference and using action alerts on the ALDF website to pull dozens of animal-friendly activists to the hearing. She also spoke with the D.A. and helped Spring Farm CARES and the Fulton County SPCA find a local attorney to represent them in the criminal case and possible civil cases regarding custody of the seized animals.
And it worked! Multiple charges were eventually brought against the Fagans in Fulton County Court (in the process removing the case from the inexperienced Justice Court). Even more importantly, the D.A. publicly announced that she had scrapped plans to give some of the animals back.
Today, many of the formerly neglected animals have been placed in loving homes. All are receiving humane care.
And Campbell is back home in Portland. But she says she’s ready to take to the skies again if duty calls.
“Most of our cases involve animals who’ve already been abused, and we’re left trying to help shelters and D.A.s get a conviction and a strong sentence,” Campbell says. “But here we had a chance to prevent further harm to these damaged animals by jumping in and preventing their return to their alleged abusers. Any day you can prevent cruelty is a very good day.”