Plea Entered in Maryland Arabian Horse Case

A Maryland farm operator facing 133 animal cruelty charges for allegedly maltreating 100 Polish Arabian horses on her Queen Anne's County farm has pleaded no contest to 10 of the charges under a plea deal entered in Queen Anne's County District Court on Feb. 27. The remaining 123 charges were dismissed.

Previously, Queen Anne's County Animal Services Department Director David MacGlashan said that Queen Anne's County Maryland animal welfare authorities began monitoring conditions at Canterbury Farms in 2010 after receiving complaints about the horses' condition. County welfare authorities and a veterinarian instructed the farm's owner to improve the horses' care, but the animals' condition did not improve, MacGlashan said.

In April 2011 farm owner Marsha Parkinson surrendered seven of the animals. A veterinarian euthanized six animals including five elderly broodmares. All were in poor condition, MacGlashan said. Animal welfare personnel from Queen Anne's County, the Days End Farm Horse Rescue, Paradise Farm, Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue, Summer Winds Stables, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) later removed 133 animals from the farm. The animals were placed under rehabilitative care through those agencies and private equine facilities and are reportedly thriving, according to HSUS Equine Cruelty Specialist Stacy Segal .

Queen Anne's County State's Attorney Lance Richardson subsequently charged Parkinson with 133 counts of cruelty to animals. All the charges alleged that Parkinson failed to provide the horses with sufficient food, necessary veterinary care, proper drink, air, space, shelter, and protection from the weather.

In a written statement, Parkinson's attorney Jonathan Kagan said that under a plea agreement accepted by Queen Anne's County district Court Judge John Nunn on Monday, 123 of the 133 counts were dismissed and Parkinson pleaded no contest to 10 counts of "failing to provide adequate shelter."

Also under the agreement, Queen Anne's County Animal Control must return to Canterbury Farm more than 60 of the seized horses selected by Parkinson, Kagan said.

Richardson said that under the agreement Parkinson is relinquishing 60 horses for adoption and will be on probation for the next year under the supervision of Queen Anne's County Animal Control.

"If she violates terms of the probation, she could be sentenced to up to two years and six months in prison," Richardson said.

In a written statement, Parkinson maintained her innocence on the charges: "They (Animal Control and HSUS) had no basis to take my horses, and I should never have been charged."

Segal said she was disappointed with the outcome of the criminal case, but believed oversight provisions contained in the plea agreement are in the horses' best interest.

"The court-ordered oversight of Parkinson will help ensure that horses will not suffer in violation of the plea agreement or the law," Segal said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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