By MORGAN FRISCH
Recorder News Staff
FONDA —The Montgomery County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MCSPCA) and president Jan Zumbolo are facing a lawsuit after taking horses from a Polin Road residence earlier this month.
John Fleres, of 323 Polin Road, Charleston, is trying to regain ownership of the animals and damages, according to court documents filed at the Montgomery County Clerk’s Office on May 15.
Fleres is alleging the MCSPCA and Zumbolo illegally entered his property claiming his seven horses were in mud, according to the court documents.
Fleres alleged in the documents that on May 6, the MCSPCA threatened his 20-year-old daughter with immediate arrest, criminal prosecution and imprisonment unless the seven horses were given to the MCSPCA.
The documents allege the MCSPCA had no right or authority to investigate the condition of Fleres’s horses nor “threaten his daughter with criminal prosecution, incarceration and fines.”
Fleres’ claim states the extent of the investigation in which his horses were seized was to investigate Amy Person.
Person, 50, also of 323 Polin Road, is facing the misdemeanor charges for allegedly not providing fresh food and fresh water to 31 farm animals, along with keeping them in inadequate living conditions at the Polin Road residence.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office reportedly received an anonymous tip April 28 about animal cruelty at the property. The MCSPCA took charge for the animals, which included, 10 sheep, eight goats, six pigs, two calves, two donkeys, two horses and one pony.
Person pleaded not guilty in Charleston Town Court to 31 counts of animal cruelty on May 3.
According to the court documents, there were no circumstances on May 6 that could prosecute Fleres with Agriculture and Markets Law 353. The documents state Fleres’ daughter believed the threats of arrest and prosecution were being made by persons possessing genuine law enforcement and authority.
She was “coerced by their threats” and allowed the horses to be taken away, according to court documents. Fleres alleged his daughter had no legal authority to sign over the horses.
According to the documents, it’s believed the horses are located at the MCSPCA, or with someone under their control. The MCSPCA and Zumbolo have no lawful claim to the ownership, custody or control of the horses based on the means which they obtained possession, the document stated.
On the first cause of action, Fleres is demanding “surrender to the defendants of their horses, to have been obtained by the defendants by fraud, misrepresentation, undue influence, breach of trust, breach of duty, not the free act and that all such transfer and surrender be declared null and void and of no force and effect.” It continues that Fleres be given immediate possession of his horses.
On the second cause of action, which alleges the MCSPCA wrongfully took possession of the horses, Fleres is seeking damages of $25,000, which is the value of the seven horses.
The third cause of action alleges the MCSCPA representatives gave Fleres “no consideration,” as he was not represented by an attorney nor properly informed of the contents of the Surrender Agreement. It further alleges the MCSCPA representatives were “acting for their own benefit and enrichment” and “their impersonation” of cruelty/peace officers, causing Fleres to be “taken unfair advantage of.”
Fleres allegedly demanded return of property, but the MCSPCA refused. The third cause of action states Fleres is seeking damages in the a sum of $25,000. The court documents are unclear if Fleres is seeking damages that total $50,000 or $25,000.
Fleres’ attorney Michael W. Smrtic did not return messages seeking clarification.
Zumbolo did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday afternoon.