Maryland farmer testifies at trial, denies abusing livestock

AP News
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Posted: Jul 01, 2015 6:07 PM

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — A Maryland farmer charged with 20 counts of animal cruelty testified Wednesday that he treated his cattle, goats and sheep better than authorities did when they seized the livestock he allegedly neglected.

Lawyers gave their closing arguments but the verdict won't be announced until July 22, when the bench trial reconvenes.

Daniel Rohrer Jr., 61, of Boonsboro, acknowledged he left dead sheep decaying for years in his barn, but said the carcasses didn't affect his care of the animals living there.

He agreed that some of his cows were thin, but said that was because they were nursing calves. He acknowledged that some goats had hooves in need of trimming but said the animals were either too hard to catch or ready for slaughter anyway.

Rohrer said he was bothered, though, by the way the Humane Society of Washington County treated his livestock when it seized 95 animals from his farm in November. It took authorities more than two weeks to corral the animals and move them to other farms.

"There were times they ran them anywhere from two to four hours at a time, take a break, come back and do it again," Rohrer told District Judge Terry Myers. He said one of his cows fell during a chase and had to be euthanized.

Prosecutors say some of the cattle seized from Rohrer's pasture were emaciated, while some animals kept in the barn were dangerously obese. Animal control officers say a self-refilling watering device in the barn had floating muck and feces.

A veterinarian who testified earlier for the state said five confiscated sheep later died from pregnancy toxemia, a condition that can result from overfeeding during pregnancy. Rohrer testified that he had hoped the sheep were pregnant but hadn't checked.

Rohrer said he ran the farm alone and sold the meat at area farmer's markets. He was originally charged with 318 counts of animal cruelty but the state dropped most of them to avoid a lengthy trial. Myers judge acquitted Rohrer on six counts in May. Prosecutors dismissed four more charges on Wednesday.

Defense attorney Rebekah Lusk said in her closing argument that the Humane Society and state had overreached and destroyed Rohrer's livelihood and reputation.

"Mr. Rohrer's is a small family farm. He does the best he can and I think he does a pretty good job," she said.

Assistant State's Attorney Michele Hansen said in her summation that Rohrer's neglect had caused his livestock to suffer. She said the pregnant sheep died because they were allowed to gorge themselves on grain, instead of being given hay.

"There's a hay feeder, but there's a dead carcass of a sheep in the hay feeder," she said.

Rohrer is also fighting a charge that he intimidated a witness by following an animal control officer after she testified against him.