CLINTON, Maine — Brett Ingraham, one of the owners of Fair Play Farm and Stables, a former horse breeding and boarding operation on Tardiff Road, was arrested Sunday on seven counts of animal cruelty.
Ingraham and his wife, Alexis, became the focus of an investigation by state animal welfare authorities in February after the state received complaints that horses on their farm appeared malnourished and in declining health.
Although a warrant also was issued for Alexis Ingraham, she was not taken into police custody on Sunday.
As of Tuesday, the reason Alexis Ingraham was not arrested had not yet been made clear to Kennebec County District Attorney Evert Fowle or to Norma Worley, director of the state’s animal welfare bureau,
Worley said Tuesday she had heard “conflicting stories” about that matter, but it was her understanding that the woman is in her third trimester of pregnancy.
Though the Ingrahams could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, they denied the accusations about their 5-month-old business in a story in the Bangor Daily News last February. At that time, they said they were taking in as many as 10 horses a week, with the majority quickly being sold to new homes.
Some of those horses came to them in poor health, from owners who couldn’t care for them, they said.
“There’s no problem here,” Brett Ingraham told the BDN. “Anyone who wants to come see for themselves is welcome. We have nothing to hide.”
After visits to the farm on Feb. 18 and June 3, however, state animal welfare officials stepped in and seized a total of 23 animals described as being “in declining health,” Fowle said Tuesday, adding, “We didn’t seize all of the animals.”
The seven-count animal cruelty complaint alleges that Ingraham “did intentionally, knowingly or recklessly deprive [animals in his care] of necessary sustenance, necessary medical attention, proper shelter, protection from the weather or humanely clean conditions.”
Of the animals taken from the farm on June 3, 15 were horses, he said. The rest of the animals taken from the Ingrahams’ farm were goats, dogs and pigs.
Now in state custody, the malnourished and sick animals are being cared for at an undisclosed location, Fowle said.
“They are improving,” Fowle said.
According to Worley, a search warrant and subsequent arrest warrants were the result of an investigation and inspections by Christine Fraser, a state animal welfare veterinarian.
According to Worley, the Ingrahams closed Fair Play Farm in mid-July. The couple and their remaining animals have moved in with Alexis Ingraham’s parents, who live in Burnham.
Worley declined to say whether the state is monitoring the animals now in the Ingrahams’ care.
“We really don’t want to comment too much on that because it’s an open case,” she said.
After his arrest, Ingraham, 24, was taken to Waldo County Jail in Belfast. He was released on bail Monday, a jail official confirmed Tuesday.
Fowle said Ingraham is scheduled to appear in court to respond to the charges on Nov. 2.
In the meantime, Fowle said, Ingraham is barred from acquiring additional animals and must submit to inspection of any now in his possession.
Worley said that if convicted of the animal cruelty charges, Ingraham could be banned from owning animals or restricted in the number of animals he could own at a given time.
“My goal in all of this is to make sure that the animals are protected and that they are not neglected or allowed to live in an environment that is unclean or unsafe,” Fowle said.