MEDIA RELEASE: PA State Trooper Horse Killing - Shock & Outrage Over Dropped Charges

MEDIA RELEASE: PA State Trooper Horse Killing - Shock & Outrage Over Dropped Charges

WEST CHESTER, Penn. (June 6, 2024)In Defense of Animals is shocked and outraged that animal cruelty charges against a Pennsylvania state trooper who killed a lost horse with his vehicle have been dropped.

Charges against Cpl. Michael Perillo were dismissed at the request of District Attorney Chris de Barrena-Sarobehad. They included two aggravated cruelty to animals causing death, aggravated cruelty to animals by torture, and cruelty to animals, carrying combined maximum penalty of 16 years incarceration and $35,000 in fines. 

District Attorney Deb Ryan called the crime “unthinkable and inexcusable,” and vowed to hold the defendant accountable for his actions.

“Law enforcement is not above the law,” said In Defense of Animals’ Senior Campaigner Doll Stanley. “As a state trooper it was Cpl. Perillo’s duty to ensure the safety of the public in a humane and intelligent manner. There was no reason for this horse to be repeatedly rammed to death. If the horse posed a public threat, traffic could have been slowed by weaving with flashing lights. A single bullet could have euthanized the horse if they were injured beyond recovery. By dropping the charges, District Attorney de Barrena-Sarobehad is effectively condoning a wildly irresponsible and disproportionate response by law enforcement.” 

In December 2021, a horse who had wandered from an Amish farm was struck by a vehicle on U.S. Route 1 in Lower Oxford Township. The horse was standing on the side of the road, still mobile and needing rescue.

Two state troopers responded, but when they arrived, the horse began to move north on the southbound lane. According to a report by Chester County prosecutors shared by media, one of the troopers tried unsuccessfully to catch the horse using jumper cables as a rope, but the horse headed onto an on-ramp.

Cpl. Michael Perillo arrived via the on-ramp in his vehicle with his emergency lights on and blocked the horse between two vehicles, but the horse tried to go around him. Perillo changed his position, but the horse tried to go around again. At that point, Perillo hit the horse's right leg.

The horse turned around and tried to go back toward the trooper with the jumper cables, but that trooper fired five shots, hitting the horse at least once in the side. Perillo followed the horse, who was running to escape, and struck them four times with enough force that the last time the horse landed on the hood. He then struck the horse again after they fell off the hood. He hit the horse yet again after they tried to stand up, this time driving his car over the horse and pinning the severely injured equine down.

The horse was still alive at this point and then was shot and killed by another trooper.

In Defense of Animals provided Chester County Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Wright with a letter with more than 14,800 signatures supporting Perillo’s prosecution. He was arrested on felony and misdemeanor charges of aggravated cruelty. A criminal complaint was filed by the state following the incident.

Law enforcement agencies and first responders must recognize the need to institute the humane training and planning that is offered by professional equine and livestock handlers.

State troopers in most states weave across lanes with flashing lights to slow the flow of traffic while other responders contain the scene and direct traffic.

“There is no excuse for enforcement agencies to not have first responders trained and in place for the safe removal of horses and other large animals from roadways, especially in rural areas and on transport routes,” added Stanley. “We count on law enforcement to protect the most vulnerable members of society, including animals. I hope this doesn’t set a precedent in this area, and agencies will pursue training to ensure they are prepared to handle incidents like this and prevent any more animals from suffering the way this horse did.” 


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Contact: Doll Stanley,, (662) 809-4483 

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with over 250,000 supporters and a 40-year history of protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitats through education, campaigns, and its hands-on rescue facilities in California, India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi.


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