Judge rules visits by animal warden did not violate veterinarian's rights

June 02, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

Prosecutors will be permitted to use evidence seized from a barn owned by a Mount Airy veterinarian accused of mistreating two cows, a Howard Circuit judge said yesterday.

Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr. ruled that a Howard County Animal Control warden did not violate the constitutional rights of Richard John Burroughs by going to his barn three times in January 1992 to inspect the cows and seize evidence.

Judge Sybert, citing rulings from several federal cases, said privacy laws apply only to a citizen's home -- but not to Dr. Burrough's barn in a vacant field about one-third of a mile from the veterinarian's house.

"The privilege in this case does not exist," Judge Sybert said.

Dr. Burroughs, 51, was charged with two counts of animal cruelty after the two malnourished cows were discovered at a barn he owns in the 18100 block of Penn Shop Road.

The veterinarian was accused of failing to provide the cows with nutritious food, care, water, air, space, shelter and protection from the weather, according to court documents.

One veterinarian who examined the cows for the prosecution reported both cows were at least 250 pounds underweight. But another veterinarian, hired by the defense, said the cows showed no signs of dehydration or malnutrition.

The cows, a 12-year-old Jersey heifer and a 9-year-old Hereford heifer, are now in good health and live on a farm in Staunton, Va.

Dr. Burroughs was fined $500 and ordered to complete two years of supervised probation and 350 hours of community service after he was convicted of the charges in Howard District Court in May 1993.

He appealed the conviction to Circuit Court, and a jury trial is scheduled for June 15.

His attorney, Daniel Green of Eldersburg, argued that prosecutors should not be permitted to use evidence collected by the animal control warden because he should have obtained a warrant before going to the barn. Mr. Green argued that warden Timothy Grove violated Dr. Burrough's right to privacy by going to the barn, which is about 1,500 feet off Penn Shop Road. A no-trespassing sign is posted at the property.

But Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy argued that the warden acted within his duties. She said privacy laws do not cover Dr. Burrough's barn, noting such laws don't apply to areas where there are no dwellings.

Mr. Grove discovered the cows on Jan. 21, 1992, when he went to the farm to inspect a fence, records say. The cows were attached to lead shanks and long ropes that were entangled in roots and stumps in the barn. One rope was so entangled that the cow could not reach food.

The warden took a veterinarian to examine the cows two days later, records say. During this visit, Mr. Grove gathered stool samples from the heifers and took pictures and a videotape of the cows and the conditions.

On the next day, Mr. Grove took two water buckets, the lead shanks, as well as the cows, records say.

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