June 2016 | Transporter of ‘Paintball Pony’ Found Guilty on All Counts
The news horse owners need to know – published 12x a year. Read by 38,000+ horse owners in Pennsylvania and beyond. Don’t miss another issue,
subscribe today
Have each issue of Pennsylvania Equestrian sent to your home or farm. Just a one-time charge of $20.
Subscribe
Don't miss another issue
American Horse Publications Award
Pennsylvania Equestrian Honored for Editorial Excellence
click for more

Transporter of ‘Paintball Pony’ Found Guilty on All Counts

Stephanie Shertzer Lawson - June 2016

The emaciated mare thought to have been shot by paintballs who has become a media sensation received justice on May 20.

Phillip S. Price, Jr. of Providence, RI was convicted of three counts of animal cruelty, one count of dealing animals without a license, and one count of importing animals without required interstate health certificate. He was ordered to pay restitution of $10,178.29—the cost of the animal’s vet bills to date – and fined $3,056.50.

Most importantly, he was barred from the New Holland Sales Stables, where the underweight, blind pony mare was found, covered in paint.

Lancaster County Humane Officer Susan Martin testified that the painted pony was found abandoned after the auction on March 14. The auction’s vet found her to have excessive discharge from both eyes. She was disoriented, extremely thin, possibly blind and difficult to move. The stable manager said he had ‘no clue’ as to how she got there. New Holland police were called.

Mike McDermott, part owner and office manager of New Holland Sales Stable reviewed surveillance camera footage that showed Price’s truck parked outside the back door of the facility in an area where drivers clear manure from their trucks.  The footage showed someone leading a horse into the barn.

Kelly Smith of Omega Horse Rescue, who had found the mare, transported her to New Bolton Center where she was admitted as an emergency patient. Dr. Rose Nolen-Walston, Associate Professor at Penn Vet, testified that she saw the mare the next morning. She gave her a body condition score of 2 to 2 ½. One eye had a detached retina leaving it blind and the other was ulcerated and muscle spasms had caused the eye to be fixed looking down. Her feet were overgrown, she was very body sore and unusually quiet and sedate. She had copious discharge from both eyes and the one that still had vision was tightly closed.

Two weeks later Nolen-Walston removed the blind eye, which she said was painful and non-visual; the other eye remained tightly shut and very painful. “Her eyes required extensive treatment but otherwise she needed just food and good husbandry,” she said.

Nolen-Walston testified that the mare was not healthy enough to be transported. “She was suffering tremendously. Eye pain is exquisitely painful,” she said.

Sue Martin of the Lancaster County SPCA testified that she called Price on March 21. He said he had transported the mare, that she had been fine, and that she was not his horse. Martin asked him to have the owner call. Two days later she received a call from Doreen Weston, who owns and operates Smoke Hollow Farm in Pittstown, NJ. She said she had given the mare to Price.

Price, acting as his own attorney, testified that Weston had called him to have the horse euthanized. He was told the horse was 35 years old, had cancer and was blind in one eye. Price called the mare ‘useless’. Weston was a friend of a lady he lived with, he testified, and he agreed to haul the mare to New Holland as a favor to her.

He testified he called Steve Moore, who was to meet him at the auction on March 14. In the early morning hours of he and a helper easily loaded the mare into a step up trailer in the light from the indoor arena, which, he testified, indicated she could see. He met Moore at New Holland at 7:30 am, but his truck had broken down. Moore instructed him to leave the mare on the trailer, that he had a man coming for that one and another. She was in the stable only for an hour or so, after standing on the trailer throughout the run of the auction, he testified.

“How could that be considered abandonment? I don’t understand why I’m in this position,” he concluded.

Sad Situation
“It’s a sad situation,” judge Rodney Hartman said. “You have dealt with New Holland for years, you knew what you were doing. The horse was in no condition to be transported. She was very ill.

“I don’t find you credible. I don’t believe what you told me,” he said before pronouncing Price guilty.

Price is to pay $50 a month, all he can afford, he said, and the judge said payments will be applied to restitution first.  When informed of his ban from the New Holland sales barn Price said “That would be taking my livelihood away.”

Hartman said Price appeared to be confused about the right thing to do and urged him to consult with the experts. He told Price that if he pays the restitution, and he should do so at a rate he can afford beyond $50 a month, he would work with him on the fines. “How do I get the right to go back to New Holland?” he responded.  McDermott, the auction’s office manager said, “They don’t want him back.”

Susan Martin said Weston had told her in their phone conversation that she had given lessons on the mare for 15 years. When asked why she hadn’t had a vet euthanize the mare, she said she didn’t want to deal with it, Martin said.

Martin said it was unlikely that charges against Weston would be filed. “She said she gave him the pony. It’s her word against his.”

Later that day Martin and Smith announced that the mare, who they named Lily, would be adopted by Bufflehead Farm in Middletown, NJ, the Farm Sanctuary facility run by former Daily Show host Jon Stewart and his wife Tracey.

In an interview withPennlive.com published May 21, Weston was quoted as saying the mare was not hers and instead Price had transported a 34-year-old purebred Polish Arabian mare to New Holland on March 14. The mare had been painted with non-toxic fingerpaint at a children’s birthday party. She was quoted as saying the mare had eye and dental problems that could not be treated, that she did not have room for her and that she was being beaten up by her herdmates.