Horses were starved and killed on Middletown farm

Peter DePaolo of Greenville is charged with two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty

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  • Peter DePaolo leaving after his arraignment in Greenville (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Animal advocates outside the courtroom in Greenville at DePaolo's arraignmentm from left: Zeena Cardenas, Samantha Sardo, Mikayla Coddington, Sonja Diaz, Lisa Bogert, and John Sibley. Sibley is the administrator of the Facebook page Justice for Hudson Valley Animals. Created during the Jeanne Ryan trial in Goshen, the page is now home to almost 1,500 members. Sardo boarded a horse with DePaolo that was starved. (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

By Frances Ruth Harris

— Another horse owner in Orange County is facing felony charges for animal cruelty and neglect in the deaths of his horses, which had suffered extreme starvation.

Peter DePaolo, 68, of Greenville pleaded before Judge Gregory L. Wieboldt in Greenville town court on two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty.

Orange County Assistant District Attorney Alicia DeMilio asked Judge Wieboldt for a $5,000 to $10,000 bond. DePaolo has no prior convictions, and Wieboldt agreed with DePaolo's attorney, Shahzad A. Dar, that he is not a threat.

Wieboldt said a grand jury will evaluate the case. The case will return to his courtroom at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14, when the judge will announce whether the grand jury found enough evidence to proceed and, possibly, an indictment.

Investigator Gene Hecht of Hudson Valley Humane Law Enforcement wrote the felony complaint. All of the reported abuse took place at 51 Decker Road in Middletown.

DePaolo admitted to shooting one emaciated black male horse in the neck on Nov. 24, 2018, and shooting another emaciated brown male horse in the shoulder on Nov. 29, 2018. Both horses bled out and died.

The horses had not been buried. Hecht told DePaolo they needed to be interred at least three feet beneath the ground.

“He stated he will do so when he gets a chance," Hecht wrote in his complaint.

Too weak to standOn Nov. 30, 2018, a 15-year-old horse was found extremely emaciated, with a body score of 1 1/2, and too weak to stand.

According to the Henneke horse body condition scoring system, a 1 score indicates extreme emaciation, with no fatty tissue, in which the vertebrae, ribs, tail head, and bones of withers, shoulder, and neck are visible. A 2 score indicates emaciation, with only slight tissue covering bones, and with vertebrae, ribs, tail head, and bones of withers, shoulder, and neck visible.

The felony complaint defines aggravated animal cruelty as conduct that "is intended to cause extreme physical pain; or is done or carried out in an especially depraved and sadistic manner."

Horse locked in a stallAlso on Nov. 30, Hecht found a brown five-year-old male horse named Magic in a locked stall in DePaolo’s barn with no food, water, or hay available. Magic was covered with a torn blanket. His feet were tangled in sheets held with a ratchet strap. When Hecht pulled the blanket pulled back, he could see the horse’s protruding ribs. His body score of 3 indicates he was malnourished.

Magic belongs to Samantha Sardo, who lives in Queens. She boarded her horse with DePaolo. Sardo and her friend Zeena Cardenas stood in a hallway outside the courtroom on Jan. 10. Sardo told The Chronicle she was afraid to venture inside the courtroom.

For 40 minutes prior to his arraignment, DePaolo wandered around inside and outside the Greenville town offices wearing a straw farmer's hat. He declined to speak to The Chronicle about his horses.

“You’ll have to talk to my lawyer about that," he said.

The case echoes another notorious case in Goshen in which nine horses were starved to death and a tenth nearly starved in a locked barn in Goshen. Jeanne Ryan of Goshen was convicted in that case last September and is now serving two years in jail.

In 2015, Orange County passed Rocky’s Law, in which a person found guilty of felony animal abuse is placed on a registry and prohibited from owning animals for 15 years after conviction.

Related storiesPlease see these related stories at

"Judge delivers maximum sentence, and fierce denunciation, in horse deaths case"

"Disturbing images of horse abuse shown as Ryan's trial continues"

"Farm owner charged with 10 felony counts of cruelty to animals"

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