Fourteen of 15 animal cruelty charges were dismissed Tuesday at a hearing for a New Jersey man who allegedly had 15 injured and neglected horses and mules living on his Plainfield Township property.
In an agreement in which the horses will either be released to their owners or housed at a ranch near Quakertown, Damiano Diflorio, 63, of Princeton pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty and will pay a $375 fine and court costs.
"Hopefully you learned from this and won't be back again," District Judge Douglas Schlegel of Wind Gap said.
Diflorio faced a fine of up to $750 for each animal and possibly 90 days in prison.
He worked out a deal with Plainfield Township police and Assistant District Attorney Jim Augustine on 15 non-traffic citations regarding the horses and mules living on his Kesslersville Road property.
The citations were filed July 9 by Plainfield police officer John Thompson, who in court Tuesday stated that he saw four horses that had run away from the farm, another six running loose, one with a hole in its leg and others that couldn't get access to shelter because of overgrown weeds.
One horse was pregnant with twins that were aborted. The mother also had an “old” broken front right leg, a citation says.
The judge, who said he had horses in high school, stressed to Diflorio that animals are dependent on people for food, water and shelter.
"You cooperate," Schlegel warned Diflorio. "But if you come back here, the outcome will be quite different."
Diflorio will cooperate in contacting the animals' owners. If they aren't reclaimed, the animals will be signed over to Last Chance Ranch, a non-profit animal rescue ranch in Richland Township, Bucks County.
The ranch was called June 23 to care for the horses and mules; it needs donations for its rescue efforts.
Diflorio told the judge he didn't know how the incident happened. He said a horse got out and police were called in.
"I'm sick about this," he said. "I've cared for horses for years. I try to keep them alive."