Treating Animals Humanely HOWARD COUNTY

August 25, 1993

Animal cruelty defies easy explanation. Clearly, it is an act perpetrated against the helpless. Beyond that, however, defining cruelty is a subjective, and often imperfect, exercise. Two recent incidents in Howard County illustrate the point.

One, strangely enough, involves a veterinarian. Dr. Richard John Burroughs, who lives in Mount Airy, wants to regain custody of his two cows, Harriete Hereford and Lady Jers. The problem is that both cows are in protective custody after the county Animal Control Division removed them from Dr. Burroughs nearly two years ago. It appeared the cows were severely malnourished. Dr. Burroughs was convicted on two counts of animal cruelty earlier this year and was sentenced to probation, community service and a $500 fine. He is appealing the ruling.

Dr. Burroughs claims that one cow suffered from old age and the other had "hardware disease" caused by injesting a metal object. Both excuses seem questionable given that the two cows appear in robust health in someone else's care today.

In another, more recent and gruesome case, a mare at the Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center in Lisbon was found to have been sexually mutilated by someone wielding a knife. Not only was there an 8-inch gash near the horse's genitals, it appeared the knife had been inserted into her vagina. Helen Tuel, director of the center, expressed fears that the mutilation may have involved a cult. Two equestrian magazines she subscribes to have warned about similar mutilations in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County.

This crime clearly had its genesis in a disturbed mind. Such acts challenge us to look again at what is and isn't humane treatment of animals.

Officials at Animal Control say that the most common infraction involves neglect, such as leaving an animal in a hot car with the windows rolled up or failing to provide adequate shelter, food and water. Such acts deserve admonition. But what of the research conducted on animals every day, or the fact that people eat animals and use them for clothes and entertainment? The key lies in whether the animal, even if it dies, is treated humanely, avoiding excessive pain. Even people who don't consider themselves animal activists or even animal lovers, however, should be appalled by the two recent cases in Howard.

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