Man's request to have cows returned denied

March 08, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - An owner's request for the return of 31 cows seized by the Humane Society of Washington County was turned down Friday by a Washington County District Court judge, who said "without a doubt" the Humane Society had the right to impound the malnourished cows.

The cows' owner, Gregory Charles Wiles, 41, of 14740 Big Bend Way in Williamsport, was charged in January with five felony violations of causing the cruel killing of an animal and 29 misdemeanor violations of failing to provide sufficient food and drink, according to court documents.

His case was forwarded last month to Washington County Circuit Court after he asked for a jury trial. No date for that trial has been set.

The Humane Society seized 34 of Wiles' cows at two locations in December 2007. Fifteen Holstein heifers were in a pasture on College Road in Hagerstown, and 18 cows and one dead cow were in a pasture on Neck Road in the Williamsport area.


Four of the cows died shortly after they were seized, witnesses said Friday.

Two veterinarians who went to the pastures in December to examine the cows described them Friday as "walking skeletons."

Dr. Karen K. Miller said the cows had no muscle or fat on their bodies, had pale mucous membranes and were "exceptionally hairy," which she said likely was the cows' biological attempt to keep warm despite having no insulation.

Dr. Edward Wurmb, a Hagerstown veterinarian who specializes in dairy animals, said several of the cows had lost the "switches," or bushy part of their tails, which he said usually is a sign of toxicity from eating tall fescue grass.

Wiles suggested that the switches might have been ripped off by the frozen ground when the cows got up to eat. He also asked if the dead cows might have bled to death from the damage to their tails. Both veterinarians said that scenario was not likely.

Necropsy results showed that all five dead cows starved to death, said Dr. Virginia Pierce, a state veterinarian who performed the exams.

Pierce said the dead cows, which were between 18 and 24 months old, each weighed about 400 pounds. She said the normal weight for a cow of that age is 1,100 to 1,200 pounds.

"You don't have cows that age that weigh 400 pounds. You just don't," Pierce said.

Jeff Semler, an agriculture and natural resources agent for the Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County, said he sent a letter to Wiles in 2006 instructing him on how to properly feed his cows.

Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society, said the group responded to a complaint about the condition of Wiles' cows in August 2007.

Dana Moylan Wright, attorney for the Humane Society, said the group has spent more than $18,000 rehabilitating the seized cows since December.

Wurmb, who has seen the cows since they were impounded, said their conditions have improved slightly, but that it probably will take a year for them to fully recover.

Katherine Cooker, spokeswoman for the Humane Society, said the organization is asking for donations to help defray the cost of rehabilitating the cows. She said the group needs round bales of hay and money to pay for supplies and medical expenses.

To donate

People interested in making donations to the Humane Society of Washington County to help defray the cost of rehabilitating the cows may call 301-733-2060, ext. 237, or donate online at

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