Hadley farmer faces cruelty charges after investigation finds animals ‘had serious problems’

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Posted: 04/26/2022 15:01:56

Modified: 04/26/2022 15:00:27

AMHERST – A Hadley woman faces 35 animal cruelty charges for herding neglected and malnourished cows and goats, including three animals that had to be euthanized, following a farm investigation of Amherst, according to the law enforcement arm of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Shannon Rice-Nichols, 49, will face trial at Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown on May 12 on charges of animal cruelty. Animal cruelty is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.

The MSPCA, in a statement, reported that eight heads of very rare Kerry cattle, a Holstein cow and 22 Saanen, Lamancha and Alpine-mix goats are among the animals that were part of the investigation which took place at the farm not identified on March 14. These animals are now available for adoption at the MSPCA at Nevins Farm in Methuen.

The case began when Amherst Animal Welfare Manager Carol Hepburn requested assistance from the MSPCA and a team responded to the scene, said Tom Grenham, director of enforcement for the law for the MSPCA.

“It was very clear when they arrived that the animals were in very serious trouble, with one cow already dead and the others in need of urgent medical attention,” Grenham said.

A suffering cow and two goats were euthanized at the farm. A veterinarian discovered that all the cows were severely neglected, malnourished and infected with parasites. Likewise, the goats were described by the vet as severely neglected and malnourished, too, and infected with internal and external parasites.

“Unfortunately, our team was unable to save three animals that were to be humanely euthanized by an on-site veterinarian, which adds to the worrying nature of the case,” Grenham said.

Rice-Nichols, who has been active in the local farming community, operating the Farmer and The Cheese wholesale operation for several years from locations on Bay Road in Hadley, referred questions about the case to her lawyer , Marissa Elkins of Elkins, Auer, Rudof, & Schiff LLC in Northampton. Elkins did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Intending to have a more visible base for its operations, in April 2021 Rice-Nichols purchased the former Farm Stand and Ice Cream Parlor at 10 Rocky Hill Road in Hadley, turning it into the Farm Shop & Cafe .

A GoFundMe page created last fall titled “Buy a Farmer Time to Heal” describes Rice-Nichols as a farmer who provided free eggs, chicken and beef to vulnerable communities and supported other small family farms. , until she suffered “a serious physical injury”. “This online fundraiser raised $3,480 of a goal of $5,000.

The MSPCA was assisted by the Amherst Police and the Animal Health Division of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

Scott Merzbach can be contacted at [email protected]

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