Former state rep in Portsmouth charged with mistreating horse

Amy Rice vehemently denies neglecting her thoroughbred mare, Reina

By Jim McGaw
Posted 10/4/19

PORTSMOUTH — A well-known local attorney and former state representative has been charged with mistreating an animal — her own horse that she used to ride in polo …

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Former state rep in Portsmouth charged with mistreating horse

Amy Rice vehemently denies neglecting her thoroughbred mare, Reina

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — A well-known local attorney and former state representative has been charged with mistreating an animal — her own horse that she used to ride in polo matches.

Amy G. Rice, 52, of 438 Bramans Lane, was arrested by the Rhode Island State Police on Aug. 28, according to a State Police press release. She was charged with one misdemeanor count of mistreatment of animals as defined under Rhode Island General Law 4-1-2, according to State Police.

Ms. Rice, who strongly denies the charges (read on), pled not guilty at her arraignment in 2nd Division District Court on Sept. 24 and was released on $1,000 personal recognizance, according to court records. A pre-trial conference was scheduled for Monday, Oct. 8.

The charge was a “culmination of a several-months-long investigation conducted by the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA) with cooperation from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Division of Agriculture and The Rhode Island State Police,” RISPCA stated in a Wednesday, Oct. 2 press release.

Ms. Rice, a former state representative for District 72 and a former legal counsel at the Rhode Island’s governor’s office, owned the horse she is alleged to have mistreated — a 24-year-old Argentinian thoroughbred mare named Reina, according to RISPCA.

“In April, investigators were made aware of the horse’s condition,” the RISPCA statement reads. “Reina presented significantly underweight and appeared malnourished. After several months of proper feeding, Reina’s condition slowly improved and she is currently in good health. The Rhode Island SPCA thanks all of our law enforcement partners for their continued cooperation and efforts.”

Rice: ‘Accusation is false’

In an e-mail to The Portsmouth Times on Thursday, Ms. Rice vehemently denied the accusation that she was neglectful in any way to her horse.

“While it’s best not to comment on a pending matter, I will state that the (RISPCA’) accusation is false and they should not have brought the complaint against me,” she stated. “I loved that horse as I do all my animals that I treat like children, and in fact it was my favorite of my 20 over 20 years. I would have given a kidney for it if I could.”

Ms. Rice also shared with The Portsmouth Times an undated affidavit from her veterinarian, Carlos A. D. Silvera of the Swansea Veterinary Center, in which he defends Ms. Rice’s care of the horse. In the letter, Dr. Silvera said he first examined Reina in 2018 when he administered the horse’s rabies and spring vaccinations.

At that time, Ms. Rice indicted she believed Reina had a dysfunction of the pituitary gland, also known as Cushing's disease, that’s commonly found in horses between the ages of 18-23, he stated in his affidavit.

“She indicated that Reina was a ‘hard keeper,’ a phrase used in the horse industry to mean hard to keep wright on, and that her teeth were so worn down that she could not eat hay,” Dr. Silvera stated. The horse tested positive for Cushing’s and treatment was initiated, he added.

According to Dr. Silvera, Ms. Rice told him she fed Reina a “senior extruded feed” at twice the amount of her other horses as well as two weight-building supplements and a warm dinner of beet pulp with Alfalfa/Timothy Cubes.

“Amy explained the she uses feed bags to ensure that her other horses would not eat Reina’s food,” he stated in his affidavit.

In 2019, however, Ms. Rice told her vet that Reina’s condition had worsened and “she was concerned for her comfort,” according to the affidavit. “On April 23, 2019 I made a farm call to Amy’s where I examined and administered vaccinations and rabies to Amy’s five horses including Reina,” Dr. Silvera said. “Reina’s condition appeared to have worsened from 2018.”

He concluded his letter by saying Ms. Rice “did everything she could to help Reina” and did not neglect the horse. “While Reina was quite skinny and certainly didn’t look good, that does not mean that Amy neglected or caused that condition,” he wrote.

In her e-mail, Ms. Rice stated that Reina was actually 30 years old. “I fed it more than double my others, taking double the time, plus supplements, which the (RISPCA) never bothered to ask or check. All horses gain weight after the long cold winter season. But she is still skinny and not looking good,” she stated.

She concluded her e-mail by saying the complaint is unwarranted and should be dismissed. “I also do not believe it is newsworthy as it is pending and damaging to my reputation especially as (an) equine athlete and professional,” she stated.

RISPCA’s response

Earl Newman, the RISPCA’s humane law enforcement officer, said his agency found no evidence that the horse suffered from any pre-existing condition or disease.

“Our case is based on the condition in which the horse was initially found,” Officer Newman said in a phone interview on Thursday. “Once it was provided the minimum nutrition, (its condition) improved.”

Reina was evaluated by two independent veterinarians during the RISPCA’s investigation, he noted. “At no point was it treated for other illnesses,” said Officer Newman.

The RISPCA was tipped off about the alleged neglect back in April, when Ms. Rice sent a photo of Reina to a prospective buyer or adopter, he said. “She was looking to re-home the horse,” said Officer Newman.

The person who received the photo forwarded it along to the RISPCA, and investigators went to Ms. Rice’s Bramans Lane home in hopes of evaluating Reina. Ms. Rice, however, would not allow them on her property, according to Officer Newman.

“We couldn’t see the horse from the front door,” he said.

Later, Ms. Rice “ended up turning the horse over to somebody who cooperated with our investigation,” he said. The horse is now living on an out-of-state farm and “certainly looks better today,” he said.

The RISPCA, which Officer Newman said typically handles about six or seven neglect cases involving horses annually, turned the case over to Rhode Island State Police in July. “We cannot be the charging agent,” he said.

On Thursday, Sgt. Greg Cunningham of the R.I. State Police confirmed Officer Newman’s account of the investigation. “We don’t deal with a lot of this type of thing,” he acknowledged.

The state attorney general’s office is prosecuting the case, he said. 

‘Favorite horse’

Ms. Rice mentioned Reina in a Facebook post dated April 23, 2019.

“Last year I retired my favorite horse of all time Reina — a Rock star I wish I could afford to clone. Today I was blessed to find her a nice retirement pasture, thank you horsey friends. It was a great long run 2003-2017!”

The post is accompanied by two photos: Ms. Rice riding Reina in a Newport International Polo Series match, and another of her kissing Reina in a stable.

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