Calverton farm owner charged with animal cruelty

Marie Tooker Guerrera

A Calverton farm owner — who once hosted elementary school field trips on the property — was charged with three counts of animal cruelty Wednesday in connection with a raid on the farm this spring.

Marie Tooker Guerrera, 46,was ticketed by the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at her current home in Flanders on three counts of animal cruelty for allegedly not caring for two horses and a palomino pony at the former Abess Farms on Middle Country Road.

Authorities descended on the farm in April and took custody of two dozen horses and ponies — two of which were found locked in a barn with no food or water — as well as goats, a sheep and a pig. All animals have been adopted or placed in foster care, Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross said.

At the time, Mr. Gross said it was one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he had ever seen.

When reached Wednesday morning, Ms. Tooker said she believes the town and her family members are conspiring against her. She also said she was prevented from caring from the animals because she was not allowed on the property, which had gone into foreclosure.

Pointing to two animals she had allegedly neglected, she said one malnourished horse, who was taken to Hillcrest Stables after the raid, was 27 years old and sick from a disease. She also said a pony that suffered a severe eye infection cut itself when the farm’s fence was purposefully cut and several animals escaped. She said those animals were being properly cared for.

“He got stuck in the vines,” she said of the pony. “He was on penicillin and medication.”

That pony needs to have the infected eye removed, and will be in severe pain without the required surgery, officials said earlier this week.

The Suffolk SPCA is asking for the public’s help through donations.

“We have a veterinarian who will perform the surgery, but it will cost $5,000 to cover the cost of the surgery and subsequent medication,” Chief Gross said.

Donations can be sent to the Suffolk County SPCA, 363 Rt. 111, Smithtown, New York  11787.

Ms. Tooker, who once hosted Riley Avenue Elementary School field trips at the farm and who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Riverhead School Board in 2006, insisted she is being targeted by local authorities because of her previous opposition to building a school at Calverton Enterprise Park.

“It’s about money; it’s not about cruelty to animals,” she said. “We’re fighting this. I’m not done yet.”

But Mr. Gross noted that his agency is a not-for-profit and not affiliated with any local government.

“These horses were severely neglected,” he said. “No animal deserves to be treated that way. The proof is in the pudding.”

Ms. Tooker is due in Southampton Town Justice Court July 27.

[email protected]

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.