How Does Trauma Make a Lifelong Advocate?

“If every human makes a positive difference in the life of another human or another animal, the world will be a much happier place. Don’t contemplate, wonder, procrastinate or ponder. The greatness of you needs only to be acted upon. Just do it!”
–Theresa J. Barbour, Citizens Against Equine Slaughter

Anna’s Story

This beautiful horse was destroyed for lack of food: A Travesty Unveiled

How a Candor, NY, Animal Cruelty Case in 2005 Turned One Woman’s Trauma into One of Lifelong Advocacy for Horses

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Theresa Barbour is a name known to many horse advocates who follow CAES. While she has been a vocal advocate, and legal advocate for domestic and wild horses, where did she get her start? Like many people in the advocacy, she started into this mission after a major traumatic event. Below are excerpts from a story that was shared on another animal welfare organization that is now long gone, but we wanted to share her story because in this day of anxiety and worry about what direction we go, we feel this story may have some familiarity with so many people who dive into animal welfare issues without even realizing how hard, stressful and frustrating it can be. Were you launched into the cause because of a traumatic event? Do we pursue this cause because we are coping with our own form of PTSD?


Many visitors to have been following the story of Anna, a local horse who was starved to death. Her story is given below, following a report about the trial given to me by Anna’s owner, Theresa Barbour. Thank you for your interest in this story and for your interest in making a better world for animals.

On February 11th, 2005 Pete Cicci was found guilty of the starvation and death of Anna. Testimony for the prosecution was given by Theresa Barbour, Alan Schelter (photographer of some of the photos taken the day she was reposed), Ellen Schelter (minor child who had owned the horse), Veterinarian Robin Rogers and Cornell pathologist Dr. Summers, Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Blasch, and Crystal Chafee (horse hauler who helped remove Anna from her horrible conditions at the Cicci’s). A deposition from a third veterinarian who had examined Anna the day she was reposed was presented by Cornell’s Dr. Michael Ghast. Testimony for the defense was given by Cicci himself, his wife Billie Jo, his daughter Jaimie, and a friend of theirs, Leroy, who claimed to watch them feed their animals all the time and helps them frequently.

The trial was a jury trial. It took a total of 12 hours. I was grateful to those who had to take time off work to be there, unpaid, to testify for Anna. Barbour stated “My daughter was there with her fiancee, three days before their wedding. Her soon-to-be spouse had come in from Ft. Rucker late the night before on a short leave to get married. Assistant D.A Adam Schumacher was wonderful in keeping the trial going so that it didn’t get held over until Monday when we had planned their wedding. We truly needed this chapter of life to be done.”

The jury finally came back with a unanimous GUILTY verdict. Despite a fight to get the sheriff to make the arrest, the D.A. to prosecute, and despite the sheriff losing the photos, they took, forcing Barbour to make copies and provide her own photos to the court. She was thankful she took those photos because until then the jury in this small town, a place were Cicci’s wife was a cheer-leading coach, had remained unaffected by testimony. When they were presented with the photographs of what Anna looked like before she was in the Cicci’s hands, and the condition she was picked up in less than a year later, those same unaffected, often bored faces, were now horrified, shocked, and even tearful.

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Sentencing was not to be until May 2, 2005. During this time the probation department did a pre-sentencing investigation and then made recommendations to the district attorney’s office. On May 2, Cicci was sentenced to 3 years probation, 160 hours of community service, approximately $520 (not even one-third of the money owed) restitution to Barbour, and prohibition from owning or having animals on his property during his probation.

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This sentence was good yes, but good enough? NO. Barbour found out that he Ciccis’ had adopted the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mustangs during this ordeal, and all their horses were still be kept inside. Barbour contacted BLM and was directed to the field office that had shipped the horses to the auction, or adoption event, held at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Cicci and his wife skirted probation and the ownership of horses, by transferring horses at first to his wife’s name since the sheriff refused to charge both of them. They would tell police and probation that Billie Jo cared for them, but she was the owner of record of Anna too.

BLM says that it removes untitled horses if an owner is ever found guilty of abuse or neglect of an animal. They wouldn’t do a thing in this case, however, because Pete Cicci was guilty but Billie Jo owns the mustangs, even though she also owned Anna. And they had all testified in court that they were equally responsible for the care of Anna. Cicci, even during his probation, worked for a major draft horse breeder. He was seen riding, walking his kids on horses, and transporting horses. Cicci had to be responsible for not only his own but also any of those draft horses.

So in my opinion, Pete Cicci was found guilty, yes, but he was not punished.


Barbour continues to work for legislative improvements. She once stated to us in 2005 “We need harsher punishments. I also think we need a district attorney with the backbone to take offenses like this and charge them as felonies. If we read the law carefully in New York State, it seems clear that Anna falls within the definition of a companion animal, and that her starvation was done with the knowledge that Anna would die, and that the killing was depraved. Why then is it not a felony? The only reason Assistant District Attorney Scumacher came up with when we debated this, was that something like this has never has been a felony charge in NY. Well, I say that’s just not good enough! Not anymore.”

Today Barbour’s fight is becoming reality, animal abuse is now a felony, punishments are harsher, but are they good enough? And what about those wild horses? Barbour spends her days from sun up to sundown, now disabled from a tragic incident, fighting for wild horses.

Anna’s Story” as it was first sent to those at by Barbour:

Anna was a beautiful buckskin mare. She was curious and full of life. Anna was one of the lead horses in the Spencer Picnic Parade in August of 2003. Anna was my daughter’s best friend.

In November of 2003 we sold Anna so my daughter could have some money to take to college in the fall of 2004. The family I sold her to had gotten a dog from us a year or so prior to this, and he was spoiled by them. We thought this was a great home for Anna, and they lived close to us as well, so my daughter would be able to visit her whenever she came home.

For months I made calls, sent a certified letter, and asked for payment to be made for Anna. I would hear how great Anna was doing and how one of their daughter’s would be doing 4H with her. They have 2 BLM (Bureau of Land Management) mustangs they bought at Cornell University Auction. Finally, on June 24, 2004 I made another call to see if they had payment for us, up until then I had received 1 of the monthly payments. Pete Cicci, the man who co-purchased Anna, explained to me that he was “at the point where he was just going to have to bring her back” to us. I told him that was fine. He said he would bring her down to us over the weekend. This was on Thursday the 24th of June. My husband told my daughter not to wait just to go get her.

I called the Tioga County Sheriff’s Department, and they sent Deputy Rob Blasch out. He agreed to meet me up at Anna’s new stable. When I arrived he was there along with Officer Dave Lanning of the Spencer Police Department. They were both taking pictures of Anna. I was shocked when I saw Anna, she looked terrible. I knew she had not been fed.

I called Cornell Vets, since I use them on my goat farm. They sent out Dr. Ghast. He said she was emaciated, dehydrated and might have pneumonia. He gave her an IV with several medications. He said he was hopeful, because Anna was lying down when he got there, but had gotten on her feet before he left. He also gave us a feed regimen to follow.

On the morning of June 25th, 2004 I awoke to a call from Deputy Blasch. He was continuing his investigation, but didn’t think he could bring charges at this point. He said the mustangs did not look as bad as Anna.

Later that morning I went to see Anna. She had gone down about 2 a.m. and could not get up. She tried over and over again to get up, but could not. Once again, I called Cornell, it took Dr. Ghast 5 hours to be located and be able to make it out to us. Upon examining Anna he said that time would tell, and it would be up to Anna now. He said he was glad she had such a voracious appetite. Anna, had spent much of the morning working herself out of the stable and into the grass. She would try to stand and lunge herself one way or another before she fell again. Dr. Ghast said Anna was simply too weak to stand. He helped us drag her back into the stall so she wouldn’t get sick from eating the food her system was not used to having.

On the morning of June 26th, I received a call from my daughter who had taken her sleeping bag and sweatshirts (and Anna’s favorite treats – carrots and lollipops) to spend the night in the barn with Anna. When I got the call my daughter was hysterically crying. Anna was still down and now choking on blood from cuts on her tongue and lips, she acquired trying to stand and falling. She was thrashing, trying to get up. I sent my son and youngest daughter up to her right away, while I called the vet and some other help. The Cornell vets were all out of the office and they said they would try and locate someone. I knew Anna could not wait. I called a local equine vet someone had told me about the day before.

She arrived about 5 minutes after me and examined Anna. She said Anna did not have pneumonia. She explained that a less experienced clinician may have made that diagnosis because the loss of fat layers between the lung compartments would make it sound like pneumonia. She said that the most humane thing to do was to euthanize Anna. She explained that even taking Anna to Cornell Equine Hospital and having her in a sling and treated for a long time there, she would only have a 15-20% chance of survival. My daughter asked her to do it and get it over with, she said she didn’t want Anna to hurt herself anymore.

The vet put Anna to sleep, her diagnosis – CAUSE OF DEATH: STARVATION.

Pete and his wife Billie Jo Cicci, had failed to provide Anna the nutrition she needed for life. Pete, 47 years old, told Deputy Blasch, they just didn’t have the money to pay a vet. Deputy Blasch who informed the Cicci’s, based on the word of someone who was a civilian bystander when Dr. Ghast was there on the 24th, that the horse had pneumonia. Deputy Blasch thought if the horse had pneumonia, this might explain the weight loss. We had Anna taken to Cornell necropsy for an autopsy, so they could not use this as a defense, as if not providing vet care is ok! Deputy Blasch explained that he was waiting for the vet reports and the Pathology report, then he would talk with District Attorney Jerry Keene to see if charges could be made.

When the reports all came back, all 3 reports stated the cause of death to be malnutrition/emaciation/starvation. The autopsy stated the horse weighed only 264 kg., her Henneke score was 1.0, she had little to no body fat and significantly decreased muscle tissue (a result of not having anymore fat reserves).

Deputy Blasch, on July 1, 2004 charged Pete Cicci, 47, of 173 Schumacher Rd., Candor, NY 13743, with animal cruelty. Cicci was issued an appearance ticket for the Town of Candor Court, July 19th, 2004 at 3 p.m. The Deputy did not remove the other animals from the premises, nor did he charge both parties responsible. I am, however going to pursue this matter in civil court as well. The charge of animal cruelty on the part of Pete Cicci was listed in the Binghamton Press and Sun, Section C, Friday, July 2, 2004.

I hope Anna’s story can help people see that we need quicker response time and much harsher punishments for those who would be so cruel.

If you want to help CAES continue to fight for our equines in hopes that someday we will never have another Anna or the unnamed, unaccounted for wild horses that may have suffered her fate as well please consider making a donation, and maybe becoming a monthly donor to CAES. We can only fight these battles on the larger battlefields with your help.