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Veterinarian's testimony to cap 2 farmers' case


Testimony for the plaintiffs is expected to end tomorrow in the $581,600 slander and libel lawsuit by two Marston farmers against the Humane Society of Carroll County.

Margaret Mead, attorney for plaintiffs August Frederick "Fred" Schisler and Carroll Lynn Schisler, said she expects Dr. Roger Olson, assistant state veterinarian with the Department of Agriculture, to be her final witness.

In their suit, which also names Humane Society Director Carolyn "Nicky" Ratliff and animal control officer David R. Stair as defendants, the Schislers claim the defendants made statements to the news media and released misleading videotapes to TV stations after an April 11, 1990, raid during an investigation of animal cruelty.

Those public statements ruined their reputations and caused them to lose business, the Schislers said. They are seeking $120,000 in damages from Ms. Ratliff, $171,600 from Mr. Stair and $290,000 from the Humane Society.

Dr. Olson "will testify that Nicky Ratliff came and tried to get their livestock license taken away," said Ms. Mead. "He told her that they were one of the best dealers with abused and neglected animals in the state and that her allegations were unfounded."

A letter from Dr. Olson to Fred Schisler said the prospect of

removing their license was discussed and rejected during a meeting with Ms. Ratliff and other state and county officials.

Defense attorneys William Mac Donald and Michelle Ostrander de clined to comment on the case.

They expect to present their case tomorrow.

Exhibits introduced before Circuit Court Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. Friday included newspaper articles, videotapes of news reports from two local TV stations and a tape recorded by the Humane Society during the raid.

The TV tapes -- aired April 12, 1990 -- show Ms. Ratliff describing conditions on the farm, shots of the Schislers' healthy animals and a sweeping view of animal carcasses spread in a field on the Marston Road farm.

The Schislers have testified that the bodies were used to discourage buzzards from attacking newborn animals on the farm.

The bodies were buried soon after the raid, and the Schislers paid a fine for a Health Department violation.

"I've never seen anything like it," Ms. Ratliff said during the interview. "And I hope I never do again."

Both TV stations also included interviews with Carroll Schisler, who took reporters on a tour of his farm and described the Schislers' practice of purchasing malnourished animals and fattening them for sale.

An amateur video taken by the Humane Society -- which often showed pictures of the ground -- depicted various livestock wandering amid junked vehicles and some dead animals on the farm.

On the tape, Fred Schisler was seen showing Dr. Arthur Peck -- a retired veterinarian who specialized in livestock -- animals on the farm and trying to raise a downed steer that Dr. Peck diagnosed as having bloody scours, a symptom of a serious stomach disorder.

Throughout the tape, Dr. Peck is heard making dire predictions for some of the animals.

"When you have shoats with the bloody [diarrhea] like that, you've got a chance between slim and none of them surviving, and slim just left town," Dr. Peck said of some young pigs.

The tape also included footage of Carroll Schisler's arrest, punctuated with obscenities.

Mr. Schisler was later convicted of assaulting a Carroll County sheriff's deputy during the raid.

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