This is a story about how the legal system failed. This isn’t fiction. This isn’t something that happened somewhere you have never heard of, in some place far away. This happened here, in our back yard. This happened at Pets Alive. It’s not about someone who made a mistake, or about people who didn’t know better. It’s about willful maliciousness. It’s about someone who was knowingly cruel. It’s about someone who starved animals intentionally. Someone who let horses be crippled and rabbits freeze to death and chickens live with missing limbs. It’s about how the laws that were supposed to protect these animals failed, and about why. It’s about corruption and it’s about moneyIt is also about how whom you know influences what crimes you are capable of getting away with. This story is about our community.
In early December, 2014, Heather Hallack and Gene Hecht from the Hudson Valley SPCA contacted Pets Alive. They were seeking placement for five horses and a pony about to be seized from Johanna Kloer of Blooming Grove. We knew about Johanna. Pets Alive Farm Manager, Cindy O’Brien, had been to her property before, in 2014 when she was contacted by a Good Samaritan who was attempting to help out some of the animals under Johanna’s care. This Good Samaritan had multiple concerns about the treatment of the animals on the grounds and was seeking help specifically for a pig whose hooves were so overgrown that she could no longer stand. Cindy spoke to Johanna about surrendering the pig to our sanctuary, and when Johanna told Cindy that there was no better place for the pig than under her care and kicked Cindy off of the property, there wasn’t much we could do. We did what we could. The pig disappeared. We can only assume what happened to her. Nothing happened to Johanna. This pattern has repeated itself for many years. People file complaints. Write letters. Make phone calls. Get frustrated. Collect evidence. Take photos. ime and time again it was been proven that the conditions on Johanna’s property were and are horrendous. And nothing would happen to Johanna Kloer. She has gotten away with it over and over again.
And then finally Cindy got the call out of the blue in December that someone was finally paying attention to all of the allegations that had been brought against Johanna for years, and she was being brought up on cruelty charges. Her animals would be seized. They would be safe. Could we help with placement? Of course we could. Plans were made for the horses and pony to arrive within days. Cindy, along with Andrew, our amazing part-time barn worker, threw themselves into their work to get ready for the horses to arrive. Everyone on the team pitched in. Blankets were bought, hay and feed ordered, vet appointments made. Stalls and barns made ready. Fences reinforced. Meetings held, plans made. Optimism. Faith that a new life would be had for these animals. Pride that we could be a part of it.
When the horses arrived, our hearts broke. One horse, only ten years old, could barely walk. Another had teeth so rotten he could not eat. Hipbones were visible. Their coats were dull and matted. Their spirits were broken and their eyes were dark. These horses had not known joy in a long, long time. Cindy and Andrew, with help from the rest of the Pets Alive team set about making the horses well. And they got better. They gained weight – over 100 pounds each. They pranced around in the pastures. They knew gentleness and love. They received immediate and constant medical care. They knew a life without pain for the first time in a long time. They were safe.
While the horses were busy recovering, the trial began to take shape. Assistant District Attorney TheresaCayton was assigned to the case, and that should have been our first indication that Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler wasn’t taking this trial seriously. Hoovler, who touted “Zero tolerance to animal cruelty in Orange County” as part of his campaign platform, assigned Theresa Cayton to the case. Cayton had never handled an animal cruelty case.
One of the first things that happened was that all but 8 of the counts of cruelty Miss Kloer had been charged with were dropped, with the DA’s office pursuing only the counts against the horses. This was despite overwhelming evidence of cruelty to the rabbits and chickens on the property. This evidence included rabbits living in hutches with no shelter of blockage from the wind. These hutches were filled inches deep with urine and feces, and that was covered with snow. Several of the rabbits were found alive, frozen to the wire bottoms of the cages. Chickens were discovered to have resorted to cannibalism, having been starved for so long that they were eating each other alive. None of this information was presented in court because in New York State, chickens and rabbits don’t have many rights.
Our farm manager Cindy was called to testify at the trial and tried her best to assist the ADA, who knew next to nothing about horses. One of the key witnesses in the case was our farrier, who saw the horses on the day of their arrival. He likely would not have been called to testify at all had Cindy not suggested him.
Despite the evidence that was NOT presented in court, Judge Stephen Smith still found the evidence brought against Kloer serious enough to convict her of FOUR counts of cruelty and neglect. Even though this isn’t nearly sufficient, since Miss Kloer is clearly a monster who cares nothing for animals, it was better than nothing and it should have, at the very least, been enough to prevent her from reclaiming the very animals she had neglected, tortured and starved, especially since all of the facilities holding the animals (including ours) had offered to provide safe permanent homes.
Except it wasn’t.
In an unprecedented decision, Judge Stephen Smith decided to return the animals to Miss Kloer with “special circumstances.”
Yes. You heard me right. Judge Smith gave the animals BACK to the woman who starved, neglected and abused them. He imposed four unbelievably lenient and ridiculously useless “special circumstances” on Miss Kloer. These “circumstances” are that Miss Kloer is subject to just four unannounced visits from humane law officers, and that she must record medical care the horses receive for a period of one year. That’s it. Four visits by Humane Law over 365 days.
So it was that on March 8, 2015, David Hoovler’s offices called and let us know that by law, we must allow Miss Kloer onto our property without incident to reclaim her horses. We had no choice. Judge Smith ordered they be returned immediately EVEN THOUGH MISS KLOER WAS NOT YET SENTENCED.
Our staff stood helplessly by while this monster entered our barn and loaded her horses into a trailer. Solingen was still recovering from lice, which we told Miss Kloer when she arrived. She shoved her into the trailer alongside the other 4 horses and pony – likely giving ALL of them lice. A trailer that was meant for 5 horses. She pulled off the blankets we had purchased for the horses and threw them aside with no regard to the freezing temperatures, despite the fact that we offered them to her. Apparently her horses don’t need to be warm. She was cruel in even the simplest of tasks.
We were outraged. We were heartbroken. We were ANGRY. Our options are limited as a holding facility in this case. Since we are not the organization bringing the lawsuit forward, we cannot file an appeal. We cannot ask for a mistrial. What we CAN do is let our community know that this happened. Orange County Humane Law is doing a good job of pursuing justice on their own. We can’t discuss all that is happening, but please know that on their end, they are doing everything they can to make this right. So are we.
Judge Stephen Smith is an elected official. So is District Attorney David Hoovler. Please help us tell them both that this is NOT JUSTICE. Tell them that we, citizens of Orange County, want Johanna Kloer in jail. We want the horses returned to us. We want JUSTICE.
Let them know that we want officials who TRULY believe in zero tolerance to animal cruelty in our county.
We’ve set up a few simple ways that you can help bring justice to these horses:
1. Send a FREE photo postcard with a photo of you and your pet on the front to Judge Smith using this simple app from Postcard.
Take a photo of you and your pet, and write a message explaining why you want Johanna Kloer put in jail for animal abuse. We will then use your photo and message to create physical postcards, delivered directly to Judge Smith at the Blooming Grove Town Hall. Your postcard will help Judge Smith to realize the gravity of this situation, and will help return these horses to safer care and conditions. Click HERE to send a postcard.
2. Sign our online petition to Judge Stephen Smith and let him know that you want Johanna Kloer to go to jail, and never be allowed to have animals again.
3. And finally, join us at Johanna Kloer’s sentencing hearing on May 7 at the Blooming Grove Courthouse. As soon as we have more information on that, we will post it on our Facebook page. You can like us HERE.
Filed in Call to Action, Legislation, No-kill by Audrey Lodato on Mar 31, 2015. There are 9 Comments