Anne Arundel authorities say they are investigating Prince George's County's chief health officer after finding two miniature horses and six dogs in various states of neglect on his rural Harwood property.
The animals, owned by Frederick J. Corder, were discovered June 9 after animal control officers received a call from neighbors, authorities said.
When officers arrived they found the two horses in a barn stall with hooves so overgrown they curled upward, causing severe pain, according to Tahira Shane Thomas, Anne Arundel County animal control administrator. The hooves had grown to about 14 inches, Thomas said.
The horses also had open sores in their mouths caused by overgrown teeth, which must be routinely filed, or "floated," Thomas said.
The dogs, all Shar-Peis, were found in two stalls that Thomas described as covered with a thick layer of feces and urine. One dog had a severe skin infection and open scabs, Thomas said. The dogs also appeared to be timid and unsocialized, but otherwise they appeared to be well fed and cared for, Thomas said. "It was more their living conditions than anything else," she added.
Thomas said she is awaiting X-rays and veterinarian reports on the animals. The allegations were first reported yesterday in The Capital of Annapolis.
Thomas, who did not disclose Corder's name, said she had spoken with him about the same issue two years ago after the horses were found with overgrown hooves. At the time, she said the owner complained of being unable to find a farrier to treat the hooves.
"We worked with this gentleman for about two to four moths, we even had a vet working with him, and we were assured this would never happen again," Thomas said.
Corder said yesterday that after that intervention he hired someone to care for the horses and was assured that the hoof problem was being treated. He would not name the individual he hired.
"This is an unfortunate event," Corder said. "Obviously what I thought was being done was not being done."
Corder said he looked forward to working with animal control officials to correct the problems but disagreed with some of Thomas's assessment.
The dogs, he said, "were not kept in an unclean area, and they were not unsocial to me or my family. They live on a farm where I don't anticipate them being with other people. They are friendly to me and my family, so that isn't a problem."
Corder said that he has been involved in raising Shar-Peis for several years and that "they were in good health." He said the one dog's skin condition was a common malady for the breed.
Corder also said that apart from the hooves, the horses were in good condition. He said he was not aware of sores in their mouths.
Corder said that the horses were about 10 years old and that he has owned them most of that time.
The horses were impounded and put in the care of veterinarians, who trimmed the hooves to give the animals more mobility and to allow the hooves to grow back normally, Thomas said.
James M. Casey, an equine veterinarian based in Laurel, said the abnormalities in the hooves would have been extraordinarily painful for the horses and, given that the hooves were 14 inches long, "would have taken years" to develop.
"Floating" a horse's teeth refers to the practice of filing down incisors or molars to eliminate abnormal wearing. Casey said horses should receive this treatment at least once a year.
Corder, a pediatrician who lives in Mitchellville in Prince George's County, said the Anne Arundel property, about 15 miles south of Annapolis, serves as a second residence. He said he visits the property on a weekly basis, schedule permitting.
Corder, who has served as Prince George's health officer since late 2003, was interviewed by The Washington Post last week for a story about the dangers of hot weather.
"This time of year, it's the usual concern -- particularly for the elderly, children outside playing and even for some of the athletes and pets," he said.
Staff writer Eric Rich contributed to this report.