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05/07/09 07:17 AM


Deal to resolve animal cruelty case

By Janice L. Habuda

Animal cruelty charges against a Grand Island stable owner will be dismissed next year as long as he complies with court-ordered restrictions on some of the horses in his care.

Peter L. Sparks accepted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal — with conditions — offered late last month by the Erie County district attorney’s office.

Sparks was charged in August with 17 counts of animal cruelty involving a dozen horses and five sheep removed from Sparks Trading Post, his Bedell Road business. State police received tips from people claiming the animals were being mistreated; employees of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals alleged the animals were malnourished, dehydrated and suffering from untreated medical conditions.

Under the terms of the arrangement, the horses will be subject to monthly inspections by the SPCA through next April. An earlier court order gave the SPCA access to Sparks’ property as the legal proceedings continued.

“Our plan right now is to visit once a month,” Beth Shapiro, who coordinates animal cruelty investigations for the SPCA, said Wednesday. The first visit is expected to be scheduled later this month.

During those announced visits, equine experts will examine the horses’ teeth, general condition and weight, Shapiro said.

“The goal is for him to just keep plugging away and really start taking care of his horses,” Shapiro said. “Hopefully, he’s on that right track now.”

Sparks didn’t return a call Wednesday seeking comment.

In September, Grand Island Town Justice Mark J. Frentzel ordered that the 12 horses be returned to Sparks because the SPCA lacked facilities to care for them for an extended period. But their number is now down to eight.

Dodie was euthanized shortly after returning to Grand Island. More recently, Nipper, Destiny and Alice met similar fates because of illnesses.

The adjournment includes conditions covering some of the remaining horses: Old Yeller cannot be ridden, and Roman and Stanley must be evaluated before anyone rides them.

Had Sparks not sold off the sheep that were part of the cruelty case, the order would have included stipulations on their care.