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Woman faces 77 animal cruelty charges

December 23, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

Barbara Reinken went to Washington County District Court Friday hoping to get back 64 horses and one cat that were seized Dec. 2 from her farm by the Humane Society of Washington County.

Instead, Reinken turned herself in on an arrest warrant charging her with 77 counts of animal cruelty - four of which are felonies - alleging she failed to provide for about 70 horses and one cat at her 4040 Mills Road farm in Sharpsburg.

Reinken, 61, was released on personal recognizance by a District Court commissioner on the condition she not keep any horses on her property until disposition on the charges is complete.

Her trial on the charges is scheduled for Feb. 22 in District Court. The 73 misdemeanor animal cruelty counts allege Reinken failed to provide for 72 horses and one cat. The four felony aggravated animal cruelty counts allege Reinken failed to provide for four horses that died.

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The counts carry maximum penalties totaling 21 years in prison and $93,000 in fines. Psychological counseling also might be ordered as a condition of sentencing on aggravated animal cruelty, Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said.

A Friday hearing on Reinken's petition to get the horses and cat back was delayed since the conditions of Reinken's bond release prevent her from having horses, District Judge Ralph H. France II said.

"It's sort of moot if she can't possess any animals anyway," France said.

Reinken is allowed to have other house pets on her property, Michael said.

Michael volunteered to represent the Humane Society in the Friday civil hearing outside his job as a county prosecutor.

Michael said the seized horses and cat are under care at various shelters, the locations of which he would not provide.

The Humane Society of Washington County used a search-and-seizure warrant on Reinken's Windrinker Farm between Dec. 2 and 5 after allegations were made about the horses' neglect, according to charging documents.

About 70 horses were found on the farm in various conditions of neglect - half of the herd was found severely infested with parasites, about one-quarter were very thin and most appeared without recent dental or hoof care, according to charging documents.

Reinken is charged with the death of a mare, found dead under a tarp in a pasture, that had lived with rib fractures and a partially deflated lung. She also is charged with the death of a mare that died in transit to another shelter, and the euthanization of two other mares, one of which had severe worms.

According to charging documents, three dead horses were found in a pit behind the house near a dry stream, and skeletal remains of about five horses were found in fields behind the house. One dead horse fetus was "found in a plastic bag in a bucket on the front seat of a car parked in her driveway," according to charging documents.

Shelters for the horses were inadequate - some were filled with trash and deep mud, and there was not enough shelter or water for the multitude of horses, according to charging documents.

Michael said it's possible the Humane Society and Reinken could negotiate an agreement on the custody of the animals outside of court. He said he did not have a figure on the cost of the horses' veterinary care since their seizure, but said 71 still are alive.

Reinken declined to comment on the charges Friday. Head down and raincoat hood up, she was escorted out of the courthouse by two men who shielded her face from cameras.

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