AUGUSTA — The state now owns a herd of horses, and other animals, seized from Fair Play Farm in Clinton 10 months ago.

The tug-of-war for control of 15 horses, two dogs, four goats, two pigs and their progeny — which played out over the past few months in a civil case heard in Kennebec County Superior Court — ended with the former owners giving permanent custody of the animals to the state.

The state had sought ownership of all the animals, which were taken June 3, 2010, from the farm operated by Brett and Alexis Ingraham.

After the seizure of the animals by animal welfare agents, the state filed eight misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals against Brett Ingraham, 34, formerly of Clinton and now of Burnham. His wife, Alexis Ingraham, 25, faces seven counts of cruelty to animals.

The two pleaded not guilty to the charges, which remain pending in Kennebec County Superior Court. They are to be adjudicated now that custody of the animals is settled.

David Van Dyke, who represented the Ingrahams and three other defendants in the civil custody case, also represents the Ingrahams in the criminal case.

The Ingrahams have said they took in injured or malnourished animals that would have been euthanized otherwise, according to Van Dyke.

He labeled it “simply a financial arrangement,” adding, “Neither party concedes that they were right or wrong.”

District Attorney Evert Fowle, whose office represented the state in the case, said an agreement is still in process.

“Not everybody has signed off on it yet,” he said. “Our primary focus was on making sure these animals weren’t returned to the conditions we found them in.”

As part of the possession case, Dr. Christine Fraser, veterinarian with the state’s Animal Welfare Program, spent a day and a half testifying that a number of the animals were thin and had medical problems. She said she visited the farm several times and asked the owners to separate the thinner animals from the rest of the herd and to feed them separately.

At that hearing, the judge was told that the bill for caring for the animals had reached $58,000 by the end of December 2010, and was costing about $200 a day.

Justice Michaela Murphy last week sealed various exhibits — mostly photos of the animals — so they could not be viewed by the public until a jury is empaneled to hear the criminal case.

That order resulted from a hearing at which an attorney for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel argued against the ban, as did attorney Adam J. Shub, who represents Maddy B. Gray, of NickerNews.net.

Gray is being sued by the Ingrahams in Waldo County. The Ingrahams say the website defamed their operation.

Both Van Dyke and Assistant District Attorney Paul Rucha sought an order impounding the exhibits, saying they wanted to ensure that an impartial jury can be selected.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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