Veterinarian won't be retried in animal cruelty case


The Howard County state's attorney's office will not prosecute a Mount Airy veterinarian on the animal cruelty charge on which a Circuit Court jury deadlocked last month.

The decision ends the case against Dr. Richard Burroughs, who was tried twice in two years.

The first trial in District Court ended with his conviction in May 1993 on two animal cruelty counts.

Dr. Burroughs, 53, appealed for a jury trial in Circuit Court. That ended with a jury clearing him on one count and deadlocking on the other.

"The jury gave us a pretty good indication that they thought [Dr. Burroughs] didn't do anything wrong," Deputy State's Attorney Dwight Thompson said.

"I think we gave it our best shot," Mr. Thompson said. "To drag something through because we can do it technically is not really in the best interest of the citizens."

Dr. Burroughs said the outcome shows he did nothing wrong while caring for the two cows, a 12-year-old Jersey heifer and a 9-year-old Hereford heifer.

He said that he's glad the legal ordeal is over, but wishes the case had not taken so long and cost so much.

"I think in terms of justice there was an egregious error here," he said.

"The county got its pound of flesh, no matter how you look at it."

Dr. Burroughs was charged in May 1992 with two counts of animal cruelty after a county Animal Control Office warden found two cows that appeared to be malnourished at his farm in the 18100 block of Penn Shop Road.

The veterinarian was accused of failing to provide food, care, water, air, space and shelter to the cows.

During the Circuit Court trial in June, Daniel Green, an Eldersburg attorney representing Dr. Burroughs, told the jury that tests done on the cows by veterinarians for the prosecution were inadequate and produced inaccurate results.

He said that Dr. Burroughs had been treating the Hereford for a disease that caused the cow to stop eating and lose weight. Little was wrong with the Jersey, other than its age, he said.

In an interview this week Mr. Green said the prosecution should never have brought Dr. Burroughs to trial.

As a result of the charges, Dr. Burroughs was fired from his job as a researcher at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, where he had worked for about 14 years. He earned $60,000 a year.

He appealed his dismissal, but later withdrew the appeal in a settlement that would have allowed him to retire with full benefits, Mr. Green said.

However, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management rejected the settlement.

Dr. Burroughs said he's now relying on a private veterinary practice to support his wife and their two children.

He said he earns about $40,000 a year caring for small pets and farm herds.

Mr. Green said his client owes about $25,000 in legal fees for his defense in the criminal case and his efforts to get his FDA job back.

The heifers, now in good health, are on a farm in Staunton, Va.

Dr. Burroughs and his family considered the animals pets, naming one Jersey and the other Harriet.

Animal Control officials seized the cows after Dr. Burroughs was charged.

Dr. Burroughs said he considered filing a civil lawsuit to regain ownership, but could not afford to add to his legal bills.

"It's not feasible," he said. "We try not to think about that."

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