Farmer disputes animal cruelty charges

Staff Writer

BOONSBORO, Md. (Feb. 3, 2015) — Washington County Humane Society workers didn’t understand what they were looking at when they seized most of a local cattle farmer’s livestock, crippled his business and charged him with more than 300 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty in November, the farmer and his attorney said last week.
“A lot of the claims [The Humane Society of Washington County] is making, they know nothing about farming or the practices,” said Rebekah Damen Lusk, an attorney representing Daniel Rohrer Jr., owner of a 124-acre cattle farm on Wheeler Road.
The Humane Society seized 95 animals, including 40 cows, 51 sheep and four goats, Nov. 24 after workers with the organization and a local veterinarian rated many of the cows with a so-called “body score” of 1 or 2 on a scale of 9 with 1 being emaciated and 9 being obese.
They also noted several dead carcasses, bones on the property and several goats with hooves so overgrown they’d been forced to their knees.
The society also claimed there was no consumable food or water.
With a trial date pending, Rohrer said those claims are greatly exaggerated.
Several cows were nursing calves and slightly underweight because of it, he said. Only three or four were a “little thin,” he said.
Several dead carcasses from lambs that died over the summer were left on the property due to a loader that broke down, Rohrer said.
Bones on the property were left over from composting, and there is an automatic water fountain and self-feeder of grain in the barn for the animals.
The feeder still had grain in it when the animals were seized, Rohrer said.
As for the goats with the overgrown hooves, he said there was one that had foundered, but it wasn’t immobile.
“They claimed she couldn’t get around, but I spent an hour one day trying to catch her to get her to the butcher shop, and I couldn’t catch her,” Rohrer said. “There wasn’t anything like they claimed. … The Humane Society is doing everything they can to make it look as bad as they can.”
Rohrer said he lost all of his commercial accounts and was kicked out of the Shepherdstown Farmers Market in West Virginia, though two other Maryland markets continue to support him.
Several Shepherdstown restaurants also stopped doing business with him, though he said he believes he can get some of them back.
“I should be able to stay in business as long as I keep the business I have,” he said. “My farm does not have a mortgage on it, so that helps.”
The society left 12 head of cattle, 17 pigs and hens, Rohrer said.
He purchased additional steers, goats and lambs, which the society tried to block in court, but a judge turned them down, he said.
The seized animals were placed in foster homes, and two of them have died, Lusk said.
“The story they provided is a very one-sided story,” she said. “They took about $100,000 worth of his animals. … That should be scary for any farmer that the Humane Society can come in and seize any animal with no due process.”