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Animal control officer tends to Farbotnik’s animals

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MASSENA - When James A. Farbotnik died on Nov. 13, he left behind five children, along with a variety of animals on his hobby farm on state Route 37C.

Following his death, Hughy Blain, the animal control officer for the towns of Massena and Brasher stepped in to take care of the animals, a task that he says has no end date in sight.

“I am taking care of them twice a day. I don’t go the same time every day. When I get there I get there. They were never on a schedule anyway. I get there not too early in the morning when the frost gets off the ground. I did them tonight at 7 o’clock,” Mr. Blain said Tuesday.

Mr. Blain had also been called to the farm by New York State Police when Mr. Farbotnik’s wife died on Memorial Day 2011.

“They called me to remove the dogs,” he said.

When he was contacted by New York State Police about the animals following Mr. Farbotnik’s death this month, he found a field of animals that included 11 miniature horses, three cows, five pigs, nine piglets, six chickens, eight ducks, seven dogs, “three rabbits that I can’t catch” and more than 35 cats, all needing attention.

The property is about 10 to 15 acres, and some of the animals use all of the land to roam.

Tending to them is a one-person job because of liability concerns, according to the animal control officer.

“Because the New York State Police asked me to do it as a person with animal experience and dog experience, it’s a liability. I prefer not (to have others assisting) because if somebody slips or gets bit, who’s liable? The state trooper said Hughy’s got experience, he’s worked on the farm, he’s got connections, he did it the last time and didn’t get bit,” he said.

“Everybody says we’ll all help you. But if someone slips and gets hurt it’s more red tape,” Mr. Blain said.

Each type of animal has its own unique needs, he said, whether it’s ensuring there’s plenty of water or enough food or hay to last them until the next visit.

“There are nine horses and three cows outside, so they’re pretty much set. Water is the issue. And you want to make sure the hose is drained so it doesn’t freeze,” Mr. Blain said. “There are two ponies in the barn, and they don’t get much exercise. I’ve been giving them a little extra (food).”

But it’s all coming at a cost out of Mr. Blain’s checkbook.

“I bought food Wednesday out of my own pocket to get me started,” he said.

He said a local school may do a drive to help out and Heidi Bradish from the Massena Humane Society also put out an appeal during a radio interview this week.

“Heidi’s got donations coming in,” Mr. Blain said, noting one person had bought some pig feed that he picked up on Tuesday and someone else is supposed to bring him hay.

Because individuals might not be familiar with the needs of farm animals, Mr. Blain said monetary donations could be put to use. He has set up a separate food account for donations at NBT Bank in Massena.

“I opened up a checking account at NBT Bank in Massena for anyone who wants to donate. It’s a special food account, or they can drop money off at the animal shelter. If everybody donates food, we have the right food or we don’t have the right food. We really don’t want to start mixing food,” he said.

Ms. Bradish has suggested that gift cards would also be handy to use for the purchase of food.

Feeding and tending to the animals is a job that Mr. Blain said has no timeline to end. That will be decided once the estate is taken care of, he said.

“By law you cannot remove the animals until you get a court order,” he said.

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