The Tragedy of Smitty Rose

The following was written by Fred LeBrun, a columnist for the Albany Times Union, and reprinted with permission. It eloquently summarizes the tragedy of Smitty Rose.It’s well known that from time to time, physicians can bury their mistakes.

Well, you know, judges can do the same thing. The poignant case of the tortured death of Smitty Rose is a prime and pathetic example.

Smitty Rose was a 10-year-old chestnut mare that died Dec. 27 at Indian Summer Farm in Fultonville. Overnight, the horse, apparently hobbling and thrashing about on three legs, crashed out of her stall in a final frenzy of pain and delirium into the main part of the barn before finally succumbing to raging infection caused by an untreated fractured leg bone sticking through the skin.

At least the suffering was over. Suffering that due to judicial dithering was allowed to go on, and on, to this obscene exit.

Smitty Rose was a polo horse that in the early fall took a thwack from a polo mallet, resulting in a hairline fracture. Of itself, not life threatening. Except that thoroughbreds, because of all that weight resting on delicate legs and by temperament, make lousy patients. Not without calming medications and expensive doctoring. But Smitty Rose went untreated, and the bad leg quickly blew into an ugly compound fracture.

The horse went untreated because her owner, millionaire Ann Mallinckrodt of Florida, interpreted her Christian Science belief to mean the power of natural healing would cure Smitty Rose. I realize I’m treading on delicate ground here. This is America and, thank heavens, people can believe what they want and be constitutionally protected.

But bear in mind, we are not talking about Ann Mallinckrodt’s leg — it’s her horse’s. There’s no evidence Smitty Rose ever expressed any religious sentiments. That’s why we have laws, to protect children and dumb animals…

But bear in mind, we are not talking about Ann Mallinckrodt’s leg — it’s her horse’s. There’s no evidence Smitty Rose ever expressed any religious sentiments. That’s why we have laws, to protect children and dumb animals that can’t scream their pain from the constitutionally protected beliefs of all sorts of people.

The state Ag and Markets Law pertaining to cruelty to animals is pretty cut and dried. So, when veterinarian Bill Barnes looked at Smitty Rose and saw the state she was in, he told the owner the animal would die a cruel, inhumane death if it was not destroyed. That opinion was backed up by other horse specialists. Mallinckrodt absolutely refused. Barnes then filed a cruelty-to-animal complaint with State Police. And that’s when state Supreme Court Justice Robert P. Best got involved in Fulton County.

Judge Best quickly granted Mallinckrodt’s attorney a temporary injunction prohibiting the State Police from destroying the animal without her permission, or arresting Mallinckrodt on cruelty charges. All well and good, except that injunction is still in effect well over a month after the animal died.

A trail before Judge Best made it painfully obvious that according to the medical profession, the horse was in excruciating pain and its prognosis was a hideous death if it were not euthanized.

Mallinckrodt’s attorney, Matthew Hamlin, countered that euthanasia was not necessary and should not be considered as a method of caring for Smitty Rose.

If Smitty Rose was Ann Mallinckrodt, what Hamlin says would be true. We don’t kill people to cure them. But we do put down animals, pets, farm animals, all manner of wild beasts, when their suffering is deemed too great, and there is no hope of recovery. In that regard, we are much more humane to our animals than to ourselves. But the other half is that if Smitty Rose were human, the court would have also promptly interceded to dictate medical care.

For Smitty Rose, the court did neither. One date for a decision passed in December, then another, and another. There was simply no sense of urgency, exhibited, no recognition by the court of its responsibility for the animal’s suffering and the need to end it.


NYSHA UPDATE: As of 3/15/99, the judge has still not made a decision and has indicated that he no longer needs to since the horse is dead; he says the District Attorney (DA) can go ahead and indict Mallinckrodt. The DA says he won’t indict Mallinckrodt until the judge makes a decision. It is a hopeless loop and the refusal to take responsibility continues.

Please write to the DA and urge him to prosecute Mallinckrodt on animal cruelty charges. No animal should have suffered and died in this manner. LeBrun is right — it is obscene. And no civilized society should have allowed it to happen. The address is: District Attorney James Conboy, Montgomery Co. DA’s Office, PO Box 1500, Fonda, NY, 12068. Fax 518-853-8212.

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XIII, No.1, Spring 1999.