The owner of a Springvale farm, where 20 horses and multiple cats and dogs were seized a year ago for neglect, has been sentenced to four years in prison in an unrelated case. Jessica Pechtel will serve four years in prison and repay more than a half million dollars following a plea deal in which she pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. According to federal prosecutors, Ms. Pechtel and her husband Andrew embezzled the money over a period of five years from the company in Somersworth, NH, where she was employed as an office manager and marketing administrator. The funds were used to purchase a boat and an RV, among other things. Mr. Pechtel’s trial is scheduled for October.
The Pechtels never faced any charges in the animal cruelty cases. Five of the 20 horses were so sick and malnourished that they had to be euthanized by the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals (MSSPA) following their rescue. The MSSPA spent many months working with the remaining 15 horses to nurse them back to health so they could be adopted by loving families.
Four of the fifteen were mustangs – the wild horses that roam free in America’s west. These horses are rounded up by the federal Bureau of Land Management and sold to willing buyers like the Pechtels. While the youngest of the four, who was born while in captivity in Springvale, was able to be tamed, the three adults were not. One so resisted any human contact that she had to be tranquilized with a dart gun even for routine care.
It was eventually determined that the best placement for the three mustangs – Annie, Silver and Sienna – was at Skydog Ranch and Sanctuary, a wild horse sanctuary in Oregon where they can live out their lives in freedom. Last month, they made the 3,000+ mile journey to their new home, where they were gradually transitioned from a paddock to a 40-acre pasture and then to Sanctuary’s 9,000 acre open range. Learn more about the mustangs and their journey at msspa.org/full-circle/.
The Pechtels were allowed to keep two dogs and two cats in exchange for surrendering the horses and all their other animals, which were sent to various humane organizations where they were returned to good health where possible, and adopted out. The Pechtels also agreed to a lifetime ban on possessing any other animals, although they may petition the court to end the ban after five years.
MSSPA CEO Meris Bickford told NewsCenter Maine that a lifetime ban on owning animals will be difficult to enforce without criminal charges: “Even when the court issues an order banning future animal ownership in an animal cruelty case there’s not a functioning system in place that provides follow-up. There might be an order in place, but no one is assigned to make sure that order is being followed.” She is working to establish a registry for animal abusers, that will help ensure they don’t repeat their crimes.
Read more about the animal control investigation process in general and how it pertains to this case in this story.