Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
Harold Kelley, 58 2 horses, several pigs seized

Northfield, NH

Belknap County

April 25, 2014  Laconia, NH
Joanie Osgood, 56 3 horses seized

Northfield, NH

Belknap County

April 25, 2014  Concord, NH
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date /Courthouse
Class A Misdemeanor   5 horses, several pigs Alleged 8/25/14/Franklin district court

The owners of five malnourished horses that were seized from an elderly man’s farm in Northfield in June have been arrested and charged with animal cruelty , according to the police.

Harold Kelley, 58, of Laconia and Joanie Osgood, 56, of Concord have each been charged with class A misdemeanors: two for Kelley and three for Osgood. Kelley and Osgood were detained, the department said. Both were released on personal recognizance bail and are awaiting arraignment later this summer

Photo courtesy of WMUR TV9

The Northfield police and officials from the state Department of Agriculture removed the animals from the 85 Zion Hill Road property June 9, citing poor health and deplorable living conditions.

The farm’s owner, Bert Southwick, 90, has not been charged with any crime. Investigators say he was not responsible for the animals’ care, was hospitalized for much of the winter and had left the daily tasks to his caretaker, Kelley.

The other three horses were allegedly abandoned about 2011 by Osgood, who had been boarding them at the farm.

“Ms. Osgood has gone approximately three years without coming to the farm to care for the animals and during that time, provided no feed or did she pay her boarding fees,” the affidavit said.

Southwick, who became a fixture in the town by delivering eggs for more than seven decades on a horse-drawn buggy, said he charges a boarding fee of about $10 per week.

Photo courtesy of Debbi Muse/Live and Let Live Farm Rescue

Photo courtesy of Theresa Mills Gladstone/Live and Let Live Farm Rescue

Photo courtesy of Debbi Muse/Live and Let Live Farm Rescue

Update 6/18/14: Northfield police Sgt. Michael Hutchinson walked inside a crumbling horse barn on Bert Southwick’s farm and found a white stallion with hooves so overgrown they looked like “duck feet.” “The hooves had not been cut, it was standing in a not cleaned stall with feces, the horse’s ribs and hip bones were exposed,” Hutchinson wrote in a June 4th affidavit. “It appeared the horse was under weight.”

The Northfield police seized and relocated five horses and several pigs from the property that they said were malnourished, dehydrated and in various stages of extreme muscle atrophy. The barn where the animals were housed was poorly ventilated and sagging at its sides, its floor was coated in excrement, beams and rafters were collapsed and the roofing was blown away.

“There are electrical wires, insulation, and plastic tarps all within reach of the stalls,” the affidavit said. “The tarps are weighed down by rat and bird feces. All the stalls in the barn had large amount(s) of fecal material from not being cleaned out for most of the winter. All the horses but one had no water.”

The police began investigating the farm in April after receiving two complaints about the animals’ health. During the April 25 visit, Hutchinson noted that several horses grazing in a pasture behind the barn were emaciated. When state horse experts inspected the property discovered that many had lice, most had not seen a veterinarian in years and some had rotting teeth.

Some of the horses were tied up inside the barn at night, others were not allowed to leave, the affidavit said. The pigs were also kept there, and were found laying in their own feces and eating from contaminated bowls.

In a chicken coop nearby, hens were scurrying about next to rotting rodent and chicken carcasses. Five more dead chickens had been tossed on a pile of manure outside. The state officials said they were told the rats had been poisoned, and the dead chickens had been pecking their infected corpse.

Teresa Paradis, executive director of Live and Let Live Farm, where the horses are being housed and rehabilitated, described conditions at the Northfield farm as abhorrent. “It is one of the most horrendous housing situations I’ve ever seen animals forced to . . . and I’m not going to say live, because that’s not what they were doing – they were just existing,” she said, adding that the conditions there have been known for years. Paradis said some of the horses hadn’t been exposed to daylight for months, at the least. They were all being treated, but she said it is “going to be a long haul.”

In a statement this week, the police said the biggest concerns are treating the animals for parasites and possible respiratory problems, and providing them with hoof and dental care. The only mare to be rescued “has some significant gashes in the area of her rear fetlocks, possibly from being hobbled or from rope burns . . . while being constrained,” the police said.

The pigs have been relocated to a new home and are healing, they added.

Update 6/26/14: Police Sgt. Michael Hutchinson said Caretaker Harold Kelley was charged with two counts of animal cruelty and Joanie Osgood, who boarded three horses at the farm, is charged with three counts of animal cruelty that accuse her of not caring for or properly feeding her animals.

Police went to the farm April 25 and found five horses living in alleged unhealthy conditions in a dilapidated barn on the 85 Zion Hill Road property of 90-year-old Bert Southwick, who delivered eggs to local residents by horse-drawn cart for 75 years, before recently retiring because of declining health.

“Some of these horses hadn’t been out of the barn in three years; no sunlight, no nothing,” Hutchinson said. Kelley according to an affidavit, stated that he was overwhelmed by the responsibility of looking after the farm on his own, in addition to holding down a full-time job, which led to conditions inside the barn deteriorating. Hutchinson said he agreed with Kelley’s description, but that it didn’t absolve him of the duty to care for the animals.“He got in over his head and it affected the health of the horses,” Hutchinson said.

Kelley and Osgood were released on personal recognizance bail and are scheduled to appear at 8:15 a.m. August 25th in Franklin Circuit Court, Hutchinson said. When the animals were rescued and taken to Live and Let Live Farm two months ago, police had asked the public for donations to help pay for the horses’ care.“The horses are still getting medical attention,” he said. More information on how to donate can be found at liveandletlivefarm.org or by phone at 603-798-5615.

Update 6/21/14: For nearly a century, Bert Southwick has tended to the same 250-acre stretch of rolling Northfield farmland, tilling the fields, reaping their bounty and delivering fresh eggs to neighbors on a horse-drawn buggy. He is 90 years old and revered by many as a symbol of Yankee tenacity.

So it perhaps came as a shock last week when the Northfield police, working with officials from the state Department of Agriculture, seized several horses from a barn on his property, citing malnourishment and deplorable living conditions. The animals were filthy and emaciated, their muscles wasting away, the police said. Their stalls were found coated in excrement.

Southwick has not been charged with any crime, and investigators insist he was not responsible for the animals’ care. His case, however, points to a longstanding problem that animal rights advocates say has become ever more salient since the recession: ensuring adequate care for the state’s equine population.

Officials estimate there are between 38,000 and 42,000 horse owners in the state, said Patricia Morris, an attorney who specializes in equine cases and who chairs the governor’s Commission on the Humane Treatment of Animals. She said many owners have struggled here and nationally to keep pace with soaring feed costs and other related expenses, medical checkups and boarding fees.

Some have been forced to cut back, others to sell or give away their animals altogether. In some instances, horses are simply abandoned. Morris said she has a case involving owners who went riding in Bear Brook State park and returned to the parking lot to find unknown horses waiting in their trailer.

In March, a 92-year-old Pembroke resident voluntarily turned over nine horses to the police and the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals after officials found them languishing inside a decrepit barn on his land.

“Most people really genuinely love their horses, but they just get in over their heads, and there aren’t that many options,” Morris said.

Friends of Southwick’s said he has been unable to afford repairs on the barn where the animals were found, which during a visit last week appeared to be falling in on itself. They have started a gofundme.com page in recent weeks to raise money for a replacement structure.

Kathy Lang of Canterbury, who founded Becky’s Gift, a nonprofit that helps struggling horse owners temporarily pay for feed and medical treatment, said there are a host of reasons why someone falls behind in their ability to care for the animals, including job loss, illness, divorce and unexpected veterinary costs.

Since the group was created in 2009, it has helped more than 400 horses and is increasingly inundated with new applications, especially during the winter when pastures freeze and hay prices can quadruple, Lang said.

Morris said a bale of hay runs about $8 in the summer months, and a typical smaller-scale owner might go through upward of two bales a day, depending on how much grazing land is available.

Horses also require regular medical checkups and cosmetic upkeep. Their hooves should be shaved at least once every couple of months, which averages about $50 per horse, Lang said. If it’s not done, as was the case in Northfield, the animal can become hobbled.

Lang said the requests her group receives come mostly from the Seacoast.

Steve Sprowl, manager of field services at NHSPCA, said his organization is often brought in to investigate cases involving possible neglect or animal cruelty. “Ninety percent of the time it’s just education,” he said. “But people need to realize that under the cruelty laws, (the animals) need food, water, shelter and sustenance,” such as medical care.

Sprowl and Morris said towns are often reluctant to charge horse owners with neglect or intentional cruelty because they typically have to coordinate and pay for the care of the animals while a case moves forward. Restitution doesn’t always come through, they said.

Sprowl said other times, as in the Pembroke case earlier this year, charging someone who is frail or otherwise impaired is simply unpopular.

It’s unclear whether that played any factor in the Northfield case. Teresa Paradis, executive director of Live and Let Live Farm, the Chichester rescue center where the five horses are rehabilitating, said she knew of the poor conditions at 85 Zion Hill Road for years and had pressed the police before to investigate.

Paradis’s organization boards close to 70 horses and is one of the largest of its kind in New England. But she said the farm has been swamped with calls for help and is having a tough time keeping up.

“Adoptions have slowed down, donations are barely trickling in and we are getting more phone calls than ever for help,” she wrote in an email. “But we can’t help others without financial support from the public. We can’t get these horses their surgeries, which will cost in the thousands in the near future, without funds to pay for it.”

Update 10/6/14: The owner of one of five malnourished horses seized from a Northfield farm in June has sued the town’s police department and the rescue farm now housing the animal.

Harold Kelley, claims in the suit that authorities never notified him about their concerns or gave him the chance to address them. He said he had planned to move the stallion as of early June, when it was removed and taken with the others to the rescue farm in Chichester.Kelley also contends that the police and farm are illegally withholding the horse from him.

Kelley was one of two owners arrested in June and charged with Class A misdemeanors for animal cruelty . The police said at the time that he owned two of the horses seized. Corey Belobrow, an attorney for the town, said Kelley no longer claims ownership of the second horse, a mare.

The second owner, Joanie Osgood, 54, of Concord has been charged with three misdemeanors. Both she and Kelley have been released on bail and are scheduled for trial management conferences in Franklin’s district court.

Belobrow has moved to dismiss the claim, which was filed in Merrimack County Superior Court, contending that the police acted within their power. “When an arrest is made for cruelty to animals, an officer has the authority to confiscate the animal in question,” he wrote in his motion.

At a hearing yesterday, Judge Richard McNamara delayed a decision on the request, saying he would issue an order once the criminal cases are closed – likely within the next two months.

Kelley’s attorney, Bronwyn Asplund-Walsh, told McNamara that she might amend the complaint as those cases proceed and she learns more about the police department’s investigation. “The more I get into this case, the more it just doesn’t smell right,” she said.

According to the complaint, Kelley lost a second job at Wal-Mart after learning of the seizure and leaving work to rush to the farm. The police said in June that he had told an officer that he was struggling to juggle two jobs while caring for his elderly mother and multiple horses at the farm. The police said Osgood had been boarding her three horses at the farm and had abandoned them in 2011.

Teresa Paradis, executive director of Live and Let Live Farm, the rescue organization in Chichester, is representing herself in the case. She said that all five horses have gained weight since arriving at the farm. Kelley’s horse, she said, has struggled the most to recover from its prior surroundings. She said he becomes agitated around people and noticeably “fears physical abuse.”

The police began investigating the conditions at Southwick’s farm this spring. At the time of the seizure, they said the horses were malnourished, dehydrated and in various stages of extreme muscle atrophy. The barn where the horses and some pigs were being housed was poorly ventilated and sagging at its sides, they said, its floor coated in excrement, beams and rafters collapsed and roofing blown away.


Concord Monitor Live and Let Live Farm Rescue