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It took a preposterously long time for the criminal and civil cases against Beth Lynne Hoskins to be resolved, but through the four years that the animal cruelty case dawdled through the judicial system, at least one thing was constant: the devotion of the SPCA Serving Erie County to the care of the mistreated Morgan horses at the center of the case.

The SPCA seized 73 horses from Hoskins’ farm in East Aurora more than four years ago and only this week was the last case concluded. The criminal trial ended in October, when Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky sentenced Hoskins to three years’ probation and 500 hours of community service and fined her $52,410 on misdemeanor animal cruelty charges.

Surprisingly, though – and not typical in such cases – Marky passed on the issue of custody of the horses, leaving that up to State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia, who handled the civil case. On Tuesday, Glownia issued his ruling, allowing Hoskins to keep 35 horses but requiring her to sell 33 others. Five horses died during the lengthy proceedings.

The horses Hoskins retains must be kept in a safe, sanitary location, and their care must meet guidelines based on the New York State Horse Council’s minimum standards of care, according to the settlement. A court-appointed inspector will ensure that Hoskins abides by the settlement and will also determine the number of employees Hoskins will be required to hire to ensure that standard of care is adhered to.

Altogether, the resolution seems reasonable, if too long in coming. Barbara Carr, executive director of the SPCA Serving Erie County, expressed satisfaction with it, noting that it isn’t substantially different from the organization’s preference almost from the moment the horses were rescued in March 2010.

But this was the first formal proposal that the SPCA believed would protect the animals into the future, she said. If the arrangement becomes unworkable for any reason, though, we hope that the SPCA will be able to move swiftly – without enduring years of litigation – to protect the horses retained by Hoskins.

Indeed, the welfare of the animals has been the SPCA’s clear focus since the matter began. It has spent $1.3 million over the period, and while some of it will be repaid by Hoskins, the work was still a financial – and emotional – drain on the organization.

Those who share a deep concern for the welfare of animals can be grateful that the SPCA has been so devoted to this case, and to the others that come its way. That record of diligence is due in no small part to Carr’s leadership. She has shown herself many times to be the right person in the right job.

In early 2012, for example, Carr was called upon to assess the operations of the SPCA of Niagara. Her scathing report resulted in major changes in the board of directors and in management. Since then, she has found it to be hugely improved.

In addition, the SPCA is playing a role in the crackdown on dogfighting in Western New York, most recently caring for dogs seized in raids at seven locations last month.

It’s good that the Hoskins case has finally been concluded, but animal cruelty, sad to say, isn’t a sometime thing. It happens regularly. It is also good, then, that Carr and the SPCA Serving Erie County are on the job.