By Audrey Lodato, Executive Director at Pets Alive Middletown
Johanna Kloer, the woman who starved her horses, had her sentencing hearing on Thursday, May 7, in Blooming Grove court. Was justice served? We don’t think so. In court on Thursday, we tried very hard to get Judge Smith to see that Johanna Kloer is not fit to care for animals. That she has all of the characteristics of an animal hoarder.
Assistant District Attorney Theresa Cayten spoke eloquently about how Johanna Kloer was AWARE that she neglected and abused her animals. That the neglect wasn’t just a matter of not knowing any better. She showed pictures of Soligen’s hooves, which had not been trimmed in over a year. Then she explained how Miss Kloer DID trim the feet of the horses she had that made money. Just not Soligen’s. Because she did not care about her. She had outlived her usefulness and was left to die.
Our farm manager, Cindy, gave a victim impact statement on behalf of Pets Alive. Cindy talked about how when Soligen was seized, it took the humane law officers more than an hour to get her on her feet. She talked about rehabilitating her, and how she gained 150 pounds in our care after being underweight for so long. She talked about the special care and pain management that Soligen would need for the rest of her life, and why she felt that Kloer is not able to provide that care.
Ben Greenwald, the attorney representing Pets Alive and HVSPCA (Hudson Valley SPCA), showed Judge Smith the petition that many of you signed. This petition had 8,569 signatures on it from community members who feel that Johanna Kloer is unfit to care for ANY living thing.
We asked for jail time. We asked for her animals to be removed. We asked that Judge Smith pay attention and understand that this woman will do this again and again and again. Judge Smith declared he had already made up his mind before he entered the court room.
Judy Levin, Kloer’s lawyer, talked about how NOW Soligen had seen a vet who had diagnosed her with some sort of genetic disorder and that was why she couldn’t walk. Really? Now? So Soligen has some rare genetic disorder that she’s had for YEARS? Even if that WAS the case, and we don’t believe it is – that does not make it alright to leave an animal in severe pain and unable to walk for years. Levin was mostly incomprehensible and on several occasions very close to tears. It was pitiful.
Kloer herself didn’t have much to say except that Soligen is “stubborn” and that she doesn’t need extensive pain management. She also told the court how Soligen is very bossy with the other horses that she is AGAIN co-housed with.
We saw clearly while the horses were at Pets Alive that Soligen needed to be housed alone. She is so lame that the other horses give her a hard time about eating. She simply can not get enough food when she is co-housed with other horses.
Judge Smith’s sentence was this:
• 3 years probation. If she violates the probation, Humane Law can take her animals away. HVSPCA and Pets Alive get first right of refusal if she chooses to sell them.
• Johanna Kloer needs to disclose where the horses are at all times to HVSPCA. This is because when she got them back from us, she immediately hid them on a farm other than her own.
• Once a month, unannounced visits to her farm by Humane Law Officers. They can bring a horse expert along with them.
• Kloer has to record her care of the animals in a log and that log needs to be made available to Humane Law Officers. The same with veterinary care.
• She has to take a “course” in the care of equines. We thought this was a very odd stipulation. There were no parameters on this at all. What course? Any course? What does that even MEAN?
• She keeps her animals.
So, we will let you decide. This is what the court handed down. We don’t think it was appropriate that Judge Smith let the animals Kloer abused and starved stay with her. We don’t think it was justice. We DO think she will abuse them again.
The laws protecting animals in New York State are woefully inadequate. Animals don’t have a voice, and they don’t have much of a chance in a situation like this one. We believe that our petition, and your postcards, letters, and comments did make a small measure of difference to Judge Smith in the number of actions he added to her sentence. We thank you for your compassion and your help.
The small solace we have is that at least we know that Humane Law can come monthly, and if Kloer is caught, her animals will be taken. We will be watching and we will be waiting. We will be ready for when it happens again. And it will. If Soligen, Count, or any of the animals Johanna Kloer possesses ever need help, we will be here for them to provide sanctuary.
Pets Alive will always be a voice for animals. It’s important to remember that Pets Alive is not only made up of our employees. Pets Alive is made of everyone who supports us. When you add your voice to our voice, we grow louder and stronger. The more strength we have, the better we can fight. Thank you for your support.