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Hearing slated in case against stable owner

Updated: 09/13/08 6:44 AM

A hearing on whether a stable owner must pay for the care of animals seized by the SPCA last month will resume Tuesday in Grand Island Town Court.

The bond hearing was adjourned late Thursday night, after approximately eight hours of testimony and evidence presented by the SPCA — the petitioner in the case. An attorney for Peter L. Sparks, the respondent, will begin his case at 4 p. m. Tuesday.

The hearing is separate from the pending criminal case against Sparks, 56, who was charged with 17 counts of animal cruelty.

A dozen horses and five sheep were seized Aug. 12 from Sparks Trading Post on Bedell Road. The SPCA alleges the animals were malnourished and dehydrated, and suffered from untreated conditions.

But the two cases are related in that Grand Island Town Justice Mark J. Frentzel must determine if there’s enough evidence to believe Sparks guilty as charged — thus requiring he post bond for the animals’ care until the criminal case ends.

The $9,442.50 sought by the SPCA covers veterinary bills already incurred and boarding costs through Sept. 26. Attorney Thomas M. Viksjo, representing the SPCA, asked the judge Thursday to leave the door open to increase the amount of the bond if the criminal case lasts beyond that date.

If a bond is ordered, Sparks must post it within five days or he forfeits the animals.

Thursday, three SPCA employees and a veterinarian appeared for the petitioner.

Michael Armatys, the chief investigator for the SPCA, was the lead witness. He said that he applied for a search warrant after a complaint was made to state police.

“It was alleged there were horses being mistreated at that location,” Armatys testified.

Defense attorney Patrick

W. H . Wesp noted discrepancies between claims Armatys made in seeking the search warrant, and depositions filed later with the criminal charges.

Armatys told the judge the property was “filthy” when he sought the warrant, Wesp said. But a supporting deposition by Patti Burg, an assistant SPCA farm manager, made a week after the seizures noted: “Horse stalls ranged in cleanliness from scraped down to wood floor to acceptably clean; sheep pens from acceptably clean to a somewhat dirty pack base.”

Under questioning by Wesp, Armatys acknowledged he never spoke directly to the two women complainants.

Wesp identified the women as Amanda Brown and Julie Carroll; Carroll once worked at Sparks Trading Post.

“Do you know they have a personal grudge against Mr. Sparks?” Wesp asked Armatys, adding the two have “bragged” on Internet blogs they would get horses away from him.