Cruelty case against farmers dismissed

HILLSDALE–Animal cruelty charges against the Clapp family were dismissed “in the interest of justice” in Town Court June 16.

“I would certainly like to thank the whole community for their support through our difficult time. We met people we never met before. We are happy to keep our old friends and make new ones,” Ida Clapp told The Columbia Paper by phone, Tuesday.

Dairy farmers James Clapp, 76, his wife, Ida, 74, and their son Charles, 49, were all charged by the Columbia-Greene Humane Society and sheriff’s deputies with 33 misdemeanor counts of failure to provide proper sustenance to some of their dairy animals back in April. Humane Society President and Investigator Ron Perez said in an April phone interview that after someone called to report one dead cow on the Clapp’s Sunny Mead Farm on West End Road, officials found a total of 11 animals dead within 48 hours. He said many of the remaining animals did not have adequate food or water and that the Clapps should have asked for help from the humane society or the local dairy community.

Dr. George Beneke, a local veterinarian of more than 40 years experience, also spoke about the Clapp’s situation in an April 29 story in The Columbia Paper. Dr. Beneke, who has been the family’s veterinarian since he started practicing, was at their farm when the authorities were there. “They were trying to do the best with the feed stuffs they had–haylage and corn silage–but some of it had spoiled. Though they tried to use only the best of it, it was very difficult,” Dr. Beneke said last spring.

He said the Clapps, like most local dairy farmers, have fallen on hard times financially and did not have the money for treatment and vaccinations. And though there was no money for grain, he said, “there was feed in front of those animals.”

In his motion to dismiss the charges the Clapp’s attorney, Victor Meyers, submitted supporting affidavits–one signed by himself and the other signed by Dr. Beneke. In his sworn statement, Mr. Meyers cited five Letters to the Editor in support of the Clapps that appeared in the Register-Star newspaper, calling it an “outpouring of support for the Clapps” attesting to their character and their farm practices.

Dr. Beneke talked about the Clapps’ sale of 90 dairy cows in March and said that they were preparing to retire from dairy farming. The veterinarian said that on a visit to the farm April 23 he had to euthanize two cows with physical ailments and that on all his visits there the animals had food and water.

“These are extremely hard times for dairy farmers. It is the worst that I have seen in all the years that I have been a practicing veterinarian. The wholesale price of dairy products makes it almost impossible for dairy farmers, even good ones such as the Clapps, to survive. No doubt, the Clapps have been stressed by these economic conditions and after a lifetime of dairy farming they have decided to liquidate their herd and retire,” the vet stated.

“In my opinion, the Clapps have not engaged in cruelty to their animals,” he said in his affidavit.

Hillsdale Town Justice Russ Immarigeon granted the motion to dismiss the charges.

Columbia County Senior Assistant District Attorney David Costanzo did not oppose Mr. Meyers’ motion.

Mr. Meyers said his clients were “relieved” by the outcome.

Mr. Perez did not return a call for comment.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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