Twelve of the 13 animal-abuse charges against Glenville farmer Joshua Rockwood were dismissed Tuesday.
The last charge was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal, and will be dismissed if Rockwood does not violate the law within the next six months.
Last March, Rockwood was charged with not providing his animals with proper sustenance after a complaint was filed with the Glenville Police Department.
‘This was a clear and great injustice, because what happened to Joshua could happen to anybody with a farm.’
— Jon Katz, a farmer from Cambridge
Allegations were that the farmer kept his animals in an unheated barn with frozen water, improper food and shelter during last year’s record-breaking cold winter.
After the arrest, three of Rockwood’s horses were seized from his farm, West Wind Acres.
The animals were returned home Wednesday morning.
Since the charges were made, hundreds of farmers across the nation have followed Rockwood’s story and have supported him by helping with farm work and making cash donations to him through a GoFundMe account.
To date, the page, called “West Wind Acres Legal Defense Fund,” has raised $72,540 from 1,945 people.
“This was a clear and great injustice, because what happened to Joshua could happen to anybody with a farm,” Jon Katz, a farmer from Cambridge and a friend of Rockwood’s, said Wednesday. “The day Josh’s horses were seized, the pipes at the Glenville town building froze, and no one got arrested for that.”
Katz said the animal rights movement has gotten out of hand.
“I’ve been to Josh’s farm, and most animals in the world would be lucky to live there,” Katz said. “I brought my farrier with me to get Josh’s horses back, and he said there was no reason those horses should have been taken.”
On Wednesday, Rockwood said: “I want to thank the community for their support. And to my attorney for doing such a great job.”
The charges were resolved Tuesday after members of the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office and the Glenville Police Department toured the farm and confirmed Rockwood had made improvements to better care for his animals, according to a release from the DA’s office.
The improvements included the drilling of two more wells, adding electricity to the main barn, building other places for the livestock to take shelter, and the purchase of heating elements to prevent water from freezing, according to the release.
“It was always our goal in this prosecution to ensure that the animals under his (Rockwood’s) care were not mistreated, and now that he has made significant improvements to his farm, we believe that he has ameliorated the conditions that led to the charges,” Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said in a statement.
Andrew Safranko, Rockwood’s attorney, said his client didn’t make the improvements to have his charges dismissed.
“The changes were well within his plan to provide better care for the animals on his farm prior to the criminal charges,” Safranko said.
Rockwood’s three horses that were confiscated spent the past 10 months at Peaceful Acres, a nonprofit horse rescue organization based in Pattersonville.
Nanci Beyerl, founder and executive director of Peaceful Acres, said she helped Rockwood unload his horses when they were seized last March, and reload them to go home Wednesday morning.
“The police and district attorney’s office asked us to hold this live evidence for them,” Beyerl said. “We were glad to fulfill our role and care for the horses, but it was a struggle for Peaceful Acres — we took care of these animals for free without receiving a dime for nearly 11 months of care, and we’re a nonprofit organization.”
While the horses were in their care, Beyerl said one gave birth to a colt and required treatment from a vet.
Rockwood will pay $9,000 in restitution to Peaceful Acres and the Equine Clinic at Oakencroft for the care and veterinary treatment of the horses during the case. Beyerl said Peaceful Acres will receive $3,000 to $4,000 of that.
Safranko said Rockwood is relieved the case is behind him.
“Now he can go back to doing what he does best — being a farmer,” he said.
Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, [email protected] or @KateSeckinger on Twitter on Twitter.