Prince George's County's top health official resigned yesterday, one day after being charged with animal cruelty and neglect for the alleged mistreatment of pet horses and dogs he kept at his rural Anne Arundel property.
Frederick J. Corder, 52, submitted his resignation letter to Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) yesterday morning, a county spokesman said. Johnson had placed Corder on administrative leave from his $160,000-a-year post Wednesday after Anne Arundel authorities issued a warrant for his arrest.
"It is an unfortunate chain of events that has led to Dr. Corder's decision," Johnson said in a statement yesterday. "Dr. Corder was an outstanding Health Officer, well-respected by his staff, colleagues and those in the profession."
Corder did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.
Corder, a Mitchellville pediatrician, had headed the county Health Department since December 2003, leading a staff of more than 600. The department keeps health statistics and provides educational and health services, including drug and alcohol abuse prevention, restaurant and food inspection, family planning and disease control.
He faces up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine on each of two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty. He also has been charged with six misdemeanor counts of animal neglect, each carrying a maximum of 90 days in prison and a $1,000 fine.
He turned himself in Wednesday and was later released on $100,000 bond. A court date has not been set.
The investigation began June 9 after animal control officers visited Corder's Harwood property, about 15 miles south of Annapolis, where he has a second residence. There they discovered two miniature horses with hooves so overgrown they curled upward, a condition veterinarians sometimes refer to as "elf shoes."
A veterinarian said the damage was so extensive that bones in the horses' feet "had rotated, become distorted in shape and partially eroded," according to charging documents made available for the first time yesterday.
The documents also said the horses' teeth had grown so sharp from not being regularly filed that the animals had developed deep abrasions and ulcers along their tongues and the inside of their cheeks.
"The veterinarian stated the injuries to these animals took place over months to years of neglect," Anne Arundel County police officer Rachel Fabrizi said in the criminal complaint.
One of the horses was euthanized because of the neglect, according to the charging documents. Corder has disputed that assertion. In a statement this month, Corder said he had been told by the attending veterinarian that the horse was extremely ill because of an overdose of pain medication, an infection or changes in its diet made while it was in the county's care.
Officers also found six Shar Pei dogs in barn stalls layered in excrement, according to charging documents. One of the dogs had a fever of 104 degrees, conjunctivitis in the eyes, infections in its ears and a severe skin rash, a veterinarian told investigators.
According to the documents, Corder told investigators that the last time he paid a farrier to trim the miniature horses' hooves was in late 2004 and that the work was not completed. He said he had been trimming the hooves himself since then, the documents state.
Corder was investigated for a similar problem with horses two years ago, according to authorities. No charges were filed after Corder promised to provide proper care.