December 2, 1998
Equine Placement Network, Inc.
Schroon Lake, NY - Donald Nickerson, Bainbridge, N.Y., owner of Nickerson Livestock, entered a plea agreement of guilty to 14 counts of the illegal transportation of horses on November 28, 1998 in Schroon N.Y. Town Court. Schroon Town Justice Jean R. Strothenke fined Mr. Nickerson the maximum of $1400.00 for 14 counts of the illegal transport of horses.
Mr. Nickerson faced fines of up to $6400, $100 for each horse transported in violation of the law. This case involved two "legends" in the prosecution of horse slaughter shippers. However, despite the fact that Nickerson's arrest was made by New York State Trooper Thomas Garcia, a veteran of these cases, and the case was heard before the same Town Justice, Strothenke, as fined Frank Carper & Sons, Cranbury, NJ $11,100, in the infamous Horse Popsicle Case in January 1994, ADA Mark Montayne ALLOWED Nickerson to plead to 14 counts instead of the 64 he was charged with by Trooper Garcia.
Trooper Garcia , who testified at the PA House Judiciary Committee hearings on PA HB 2127 and who has over 200 arrests involving the illegal transport of horses, arrested Mr. Nickerson on 64 counts of New York State's Agriculture & Markets Law, Section 359-a on August 26, 1998. The arrest came after a 10 month investigation into an incident that took place on October 15, 1997. A driver for Nickerson Livestock was arrested in Essex County, New York on I-87, "The Torture Trail". The trailer lacked two doorways for ingress and egress, not on the same side as required for trailers transporting six or more horses, and the partitions were spaced more than 10 feet apart in a trailer without stalls. The 32 horses were being transported to a Canadian slaughterhouse for human consumption overseas. Some of the horses were shipped from a Pennsylvania auction barn.
This stretch of I-87, The Adirondack Northway, was nicknamed The Torture Trail and drew national attention to the torture of slaughterbound horses being shipped through New York state to Canadian slaughterhouses for human consumption overseas after a trailer was stopped with 85 horses on December 12, 1980. State troopers found 5 dead horses inside the trailer and had to destroy several more. Only 57 horses survived. The truck drivers were fined $300.00. As a result the New York State Legislature passed by unanimous vote the strongest horse transport law in the country.
Donald Nickerson and Nickerson Livestock have been involved in previous incidents involving the illegal transportation of horses in New York state. Kevin Nickerson, son of Donald Nickerson, was arrested on Monday January 19, 1998 on I-81 in Kirkwood, New York by New York State Trooper Steven Cornell. There were 27 horses and mules on the double deck trailer, the majority of which were purchased at the New Holland Sales Stables in New Holland, PA.
In an apparent attempt to receive the smallest possible fine, the defendants told Broome County, New York Assistant District Attorney Cheryl Eichan that this was their first offense and they had no knowledge of the law. ADA Eichan learned from New York State Police and former Essex County, New York Assistant District Attorney Debra Whitson, now with the New York State Attorney General's Office, that in fact Nickerson Livestock had another case pending in Essex County, New York and had been the company involved in the infamous "Syracuse 36" case that drew national attention on ESPN in 1995.
Mr. Kevin Nickerson, agent for Nickerson Livestock, Bainbridge, New York was convicted after trial on April 1, 1998 in Kirkwood, N.Y. Town Court. Mr. Nickerson was fined and paid the maximum of $3000.00 for 30 counts of illegal transport of horses.
On July 22, 1998 New York Governor Pataki signed into law Senate Bill 6332 introduced in
March 1998 by Senator Kuhl, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. The bill raises the fines for violating New York State's Agriculture and Markets law, Section 359-a, the illegal
transport of horses. The fines were raised from $100 to $250 for a first violation and from $500 to
$1000 for a second conviction. The fines are PER horse, PER violation. The new fines take effect on November 1, 1998.
In 1996 the Commercial Transportation of Horses To Slaughter Act was passed. For 2 years the USDA did not request funding to draft and implement guidelines. All indications are that the guidelines that the USDA issues will legalize every inhumane practice that was identified in the transportation of horses to slaughter. Sadly the majority of horse publications continue to refer to the act as "The Safe Commercial Transportation of Horses To Slaughter Act" when the words, "safe and "humane" do not exist anywhere in the law.
In PA efforts to pass HB 2127, the Horse Transport Bill into law have failed for 1998. Representative Lynch has indicated that he will reintroduce the legislation in January 1999. New York State continues to use its law to crack down on the cruel and inhumane transport of slaughterbound horses from Pennsylvania auctions through New York to Canadian slaughterhouses for human consumption overseas. The simplicity of New York State's law facilitates the prosecution and conviction for illegal shipment of horses, and New York State counties have seen revenue of $6900 this year alone, with over $11,000 in unpaid fines on the books. The case of Arlow Kiehl, arrested on August 24, 1998 is scheduled to go to trial in Cortlandville, NY on December 9, 1998. Mr Kiehl faces 16 misdemeanor charges for the illegal transportation of horses and faces fines up to $8000.00.