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Horse abuse citations cause friction in Butler County; 2 cases dropped by DA

| Friday, July 12, 2013, 10:02 p.m.

Butler County's district attorney says he wants to set up a procedure for investigating suspected equine abuse and neglect.

Richard Goldinger this week withdrew citations against two Butler horse owners whose horses were removed this year by Equine Angels Rescue, a nonprofit animal advocacy group, because of alleged neglect.

“The process needs to be cleaned up a bit. It has not worked well. It seems like it is very convoluted. Animals are taken away, and then questions are asked later,” Goldinger said.

The district attorney dropped citations against Geraldine Geibel of Summit after she improved conditions for her animals. Goldinger also dropped citations against Brian Arendosh of Fairview because, he said, “There were a lot of problems with that case.” He did not elaborate.

Goldinger said he would like to have a policy in place within several months. He plans to form a committee that would include horse owners and Equine Angels to help him.

Equine Angels, which is run by Pamela Vivirito of Cabot, a beautician, has removed 150 horses since it was founded in 2010, she said. The organization is now the target of a lawsuit.

State police authorized all removals, Vivirito said.

She said she is disappointed by Goldinger's decision to withdraw citations.

“They are not interested in prosecuting anyone. Anyone who has seen these pictures cannot believe the condition these horses were in,” she said.

Goldinger said he welcomes Vivirito's efforts because neither the county's humane society nor area police are equipped to move neglected horses.

Last week, Geibel, Arendosh, Elan L. Lewis of Clearfield and Debra Gaus and her daughter Jessica Gossett, both of Polk, Venango County, sued Equine Angels Rescue, Vivirito, state Trooper Shawn E. King and Brian Burks, a veterinarian at Fox Equine Center, claiming fraud, civil rights violations of due process, unreasonable searches and seizures, invasion of privacy, trespassing and racketeering.

King did not return phone calls on Friday.

“She came on my property, went in the barn and took photos,” said Arendosh, whose seven horses have been with Equine Angels since March. “She threatened me with media attention and claimed there was no food, water or shelter for the horses on my property. None of that is true.

“I am very happy about the DA's decision. I hope to have my horses back immediately. My civil rights were violated by this woman and her veterinarian.”

Vivirito said horse owners become angry when abuse is exposed, and that Arendosh surrendered his horses voluntarily

“The horses had no shelter,” Vivirito said. “They still have scars. They were emaciated, infested with worms and had no food.”

Arendosh denied any mistreatment. He said horses can lose weight in the winter as they burn fat to stay warm.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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