“Cherokee Ridge” Hoarder Convicted and Sentenced
On May 18, Town of Coeymans´ Justice Virginia Pearson sentenced Sue Peters, owner and operator of “Cherokee Ridge Animal Rescue,” to 14 months in the Albany County Jail. Twelve months of the sentence were for a contempt of court charge, resulting from Peters´ continuing to keep animals despite a judge´s order; two months of the sentence, along with three years probation, were for the animal cruelty charges. Peters was removed from the courtroom and transferred to Albany County Jail by New York State Police officers. (Peters is appealing the sentence, citing it as harsh.)
The sentence sent a strong message to any potential animal hoarders in Albany County. The Albany County District Attorney´s Office made it clear by this case that it takes animal cruelty complaints seriously and perpetrators will be prosecuted.
The sentencing followed a trial held earlier this spring. Peters was prosecuted on 18 counts of animal cruelty in a jury trial that continued for several days. An agent from the Bureau of Land Management, NYSHA Board members, representatives of the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society, and several veterinarians testified at the proceeding. It did not take the jury long to arrive at a verdict — guilty on all 18 counts. At that time, Justice Pearson ordered Peters not to have any more animals on the property. The judge also ordered Peters to dissolve the non-profit entity known as “Cherokee Ridge Animal Rescue” and to remove the website from the Internet.
Justice was a long time coming in this case. A year of efforts by the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society to convince Peters to clean up her facility and provide proper medical care for her animals failed. As a result, in October of 2004, a team consisting of NYS Police armed with a search warrant, along with numerous volunteers, entered the Cherokee Ridge property, located in Ravena, NY. There they found sundry animals, including horses, fowl, reptiles, cats, dogs, and a monkey, in unsanitary conditions. Many appeared to be starving and suffering from various health ailments.
The smaller animals were removed to the Humane Society, while the horses were taken to various horse facilities in the area. Subsequent to their removal, the animals at the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society were examined by veterinarians. Their exams confirmed the initial observations: many of the animals were malnourished and had serious diseases, many of them communicable from animal to animal. Veterinary exams performed on the horses removed to other facilities revealed that two horses were beyond recovery and had to be humanely euthanized. According to veterinarians, some of the horses were lame and all had been fed food that was wholly inappropriate for them, such as doughnuts and bread.
Neighbors had complained for months to the police and the Humane Society about the conditions at Cherokee Ridge and the appearance of the animals. And though the Humane Society had afforded Peters opportunities to improve the conditions on the property, surrender the animals, or find alternative homes for them, Peters did nothing. According to reports, neighbors were relieved that the operation was finally shut down.
What you can do to help if you suspect animals are being neglected:
- Make careful notes of your observations or take pictures if possible and bring the information to your local police department. Ask them to investigate the situation and inform you of the result.
- Support NYSHA, so we can continue producing our animal cruelty investigation workshops across the state to educate law enforcement on the cruelty laws.
New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XX, No.1, Summer 2006.