Goat seizure leads to animal cruelty charges against CT farm owners

Multiple charges of animal cruelty have been filed against the owners of a Connecticut goat dairy, where inspectors from the state Agriculture Department seized dozens of malnourished goats last month.

Tara Bryson, 40, and Michael Hearl, 43, of 1001 North Stone St., West Suffield, are each facing 63 counts of cruelty to animals stemming from the Jan. 16 seizure at their Butterfield Farm cheese-making operation in Cornwall.

They are accused of failing to properly feed, water and provide access to appropriate shelter for the herd of both mature and younger goats, most of which were found to be emaciated, according to agricultural officials.

“The inadequate care left the goats unable to maintain a healthy body weight needed for growth and maintenance,” according to a Department of Agriculture press release.

“The conditions also compromised the animals’ ability to handle cold weather, resist parasites and disease, and to deal with other stressful conditions such as pregnancy," stated the release.

Facing possible jail term and fine

Bryson was arrested Thursday in West Suffield, and is free after posting a $60,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in Bantam (Litchfield) Superior Court on March 10.

Hearl turned himself in to Suffield police on Friday, and was to be arraigned on the same day in Bantam Superior Court.

Each of the animal cruelty charges carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

State now caring for the goats

The Agriculture Department has been granted ownership of the goats, which continue to recover at its large-animal rehabilitation facility in Niantic under the care of the state veterinarian, Dr. Mary J. Lis.

The animal rehab center is located on the grounds of the York Correctional Facility.

“This was an extremely complicated case that presented unique challenges both in handling the goats and in investigating the actions of their owners,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky.

“But this case also demonstrates that our department has no tolerance for the abuse and neglect of animals, and will do whatever it takes to hold accountable anyone who does not fulfill their responsibilities to livestock or pets in their care,” Reviczky said. “I look forward to the resolution of this matter by our judicial system.”