On October 28, Christine and Robert Baugher will be tried in Washington County on 15 counts, each, of animal cruelty, including three felony counts each.
The charges were filed after the Boonsboro couple voluntarily surrendered three horses to the Humane Society of Washington County (HSWC), which investigates animal-related complaints for the county. In this case, Field Officer (F.O.) Samantha Elliott was investigating a complaint regarding neglected pigeons when she stumbled across the three neglected horses. Known in official documents as Prime Star (Arabian-cross stallion), Autumn (a feral pony mare) and Sonny (a pony stallion), the three horses were found apparently confined to the same stalls since about 2003. The stalls, according to Mrs. Baugher, had not been cleaned out since the tractor broke down 15 years ago and was never repaired. F. O. Elliott described the muck as ranging from three feet high in some places to as high as seven and eight feet in other places. The three confined horses were unable to walk in their stalls, not only because of the lack of headroom due to the height of the manure coating the floor, but because their hooves were overgrown by as much as two feet. It is believed, by Mrs. Baugher’s description, that the horses had not been trimmed since 2003 or 2004. They were last seen by a vet sometime around 2000.
When pressed for an explanation, Mrs. Baugher explained that she lost her job in 2003, and that although she had owned and cared for horses since 1963, she now had to rely on her husband, who cared for the three stall-bound horses, as well as three other ponies. The three other ponies were turned out and found by F.O. Elliott to be in satisfactory condition.
According to F.O. Elliott, Mrs. Baugher requested Ms. Elliott to help find the all the horses new homes.
HSWC then contacted Days End Farm Horse Rescue, who agreed to take the three suffering from neglect. Shortly thereafter the Baughers voluntarily surrendered the remaining three horses and ponies. After being examined by a veterinarian, it was determined that Autumn had irreparable damage to her fetlock joint and she was humanely euthanized. Prime Star and Sonny were relocated to Days End, which has documented their recovery on their website and Facebook page; it should be noted that the names have been changed.
The Equiery will report on the trial, if it is held. No pleas have as yet been entered. As the Baughers have been cooperative and voluntarily surrendered the horses, it is possible that plea arrangements may be made and a trial will be avoided.