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Former Dracut Selectman Pleads Guilty In Animal Cruelty Case

Oct 05, 2016 09:20AM ● Published by Bill Gilman

Remy, re-named Flora, was seized from the property of Cathy Richardson. The MSPCA said the horse was malnourished and ill. It has since recovered and been adopted.

A former Dracut selectman has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in an animal cruelty case that brought an end to her local political career.

Cathy Richardson, 58, avoided a trial by admitting to sufficient facts Monday, in Lowell District Court, to five counts of animal cruelty by a custodian. 

Under Massachusetts law, Richardson had faced a maximum of 2 1/2 years in the House of Correction plus a $5,000 fine on each of the counts. Instead, by accepting the plea deal, Judge Ellen Caulo sentenced Richardson to three years probation. She also continued the case without a finding until Oct. 3, 2019. If Richardson stays out of trouble, the case will be dismissed at that time.

Richardson was initially brought up on charges in March 2015, following a complaint filed by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA). According to the complaint, Richardson owned four horses and a mule that were examined and determined the be significantly malnourished and ill. She subsequently surrendered three of the horses and the mule.

At the time the charges were filed, Richardson was serving on the Dracut Board of Selectmen and steadfastly refused to step down from her position. However, in May, she placed last in the municipal election and lost her seat.

According to an article published by the Lowell Sun, Richardson's attorney said her client was changing her plea because it was in her best interests and she wanted to move on with her life. She also said Richardson had been going through some personal difficulties leading up to the charges being filed.

Richardson is being allowed to keep her one horse, as well as her mule and other animals, including rabbits, chickens and pigs. However, the care of the animals will be closely monitored by the MSPCA and the Dracut Animal Control Officer. She is also being required to go through equine-care training.

All of the animals seized were treated and cared for at the MSPCA Nevins Farm in Methuen and have since recovered.

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