State police met with 40 horse owners last night at a Howard County farm to offer advice on protecting their animals in the wake of a series of horse mutilations.
Police investigators, at a news briefing after the meeting, said they still have no leads in identifying a suspect and are puzzled at the motivation for such attacks.
"We're still trying to find a common thread," said Tfc. John Reininger of the Westminster state police barracks. "But at this point, it just doesn't look like there is any."
Mares have been sexually multilated in at least four recent incidents -- two in Frederick County and one each in Howard and Carroll. State police said they have heard unconfirmed accounts of similar attacks in Montgomery County and Northern Virginia.
Trooper Reininger and two other troopers met with the horse owners to "quell some of their fears and answer some of their questions."
Among the suggestions police offered was to move livestock to sites that can be observed easily, keep livestock areas well lighted at night, keep gates and barn doors locked, consider installing monitors and alarms in barns, and blocking remote entrances to farms to prevent access by unauthorized vehicles.
Police said at last night's briefing at the Mount Airy state police station that they have found no witness to any of the attacks, and are unsure how many people might be involved.
"In one of the incidents, it appears more than one person was involved, but we can't say that about every incident," Trooper Reininger said.
Investigators said they found nothing to suggest the attacks -- committed at night or on weekends while residents were sleeping or out of town -- are the work of a cult.
They also said they don't know what type of object is being useto cut the animals.
"It's a sharp instrument, but that's all we know at this point," said Trooper Reininger.
The latest attack in Frederick County resulted in the death of the horse when it choked to death during an apparent violent struggle. The horse, named Star, was found dead Oct. 6 about 30 feet outside a barn at Woodhill Acres, a 16-acre farm in the 2700 block of Urbana Pike in Urbana.
The farm is about a mile from the site of an attack this spring in which two mares were stabbed at the Saddlebrook Farm on Thurston Road. Both those animals survived, as did the horses in the other reported incidents, police said.
In Howard County, an 18-year-old quarter-horse mare named Gypsy was found bleeding from several cuts on her left side on Aug. 15. The attack occurred at the Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center on Frederick Road in Lisbon, where last night's meeting was conducted.
On Sept. 8 in Carroll County, a 9-year-old bay show mare owned by a Mount Airy woman suffered an 8-inch cut after someone entered her stall. The animal was cut from its rectum to the vagina, police said.
Dr. Richard Burroughs, a veterinarian who treated the mare, said the cut was a clean one that appeared as if it could have been done with a scalpel or a very sharp knife.