Long Distance DedicationPosted on June 15, 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
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.”