Accused ‘could barely take care of himself’

Former Langley vet Mark Marohn on trial for causing an animal to be
in distress and failing to provide ‘necessaries’

Mark Marohn

Mark Marohn

Poor health is not a defence to allow six horses to become emaciated and to use one of them to try and pull a car out of a ditch, said the Crown prosecutor in the trial against a former Langley veterinarian.

“In many cruelty cases there is a common theme,” said Crown counsel Liane O’Grady in her final submissions to the court. “The owners of animals are often in distress themselves. This family was in crisis.”

Accused Mark Marohn testified that he was barely able to take care of himself, let alone the six starving horses he had in his care in December, 2008. He was arrested on Dec. 10 for allegedly using an emaciated racehorse to pull his car out of a ditch.

On Tuesday, in Surrey Provincial Court, Marohn concluded that the horses were all starving and would die if nothing was done to save them.

“I was aware they were in jeopardy. I was very ill. I didn’t go out and see them . . . I would not say there were suffering. They were not in pain,” Marohn said. He left his teenage daughter to tend to the horses but he had no money for hay and their feed was severely “rationed.”

Marohn and his ex-wife Carol Schoyen-Marohn, both former vets, are charged with causing an animal to be in distress and failing to provide “necessaries” for an animal.  Marohn denies he was using his horse to tow a car from a ditch. He said he was holding Buddy with a lead when the horse spooked and fell into the ditch.

The fire department’s attempt to rescue Buddy was captured exclusively by Langley Times photographer John Gordon in images and video footage that provoked a storm of public outrage, including a website that thousands around the world signed, asking that the Marohns to lose their vet licences.

The SPCA seized the five remaining horses, having to put down one of them. The other four have been successfully rehabilitated and are living in new homes.

At the time, Marohn was emaciated himself, weighing only 128 pounds, and suffering from severe insomnia where he would be up for two to five days. He was estranged from his wife, who also was very ill, the court heard.

In September 2008, an SPCA animal protection officer started coming around, leaving warnings on the door of Marohn’s rented home about the condition of the horses.

On Nov. 12, the animal officer wrote that a vet needed to be called immediately for the ailing horses.

Marohn testified that he never looked at the door hangers, nor responded to them. There was no need for a vet.

“I was a vet,” he testified. The SPCA never did come to seize the horses until after his arrest.

O’Grady questioned why Marohn never found ways to get rid of the horses, knowing he had no way to care for them. Ironically, all six horses were “rescued” by Marohn’s daughter, with permission from her dad.

“He made judgements by his heart not by his mind. Sadly, his desire to please his daughter led to an overwhelming situation where six horses could not be fed,” said O’Grady. “Being a vet he was particularly cognizant of the results of not feeding those horses  . . . a lack of money is not a defence.”

Marohn testified that he worried if he surrendered the horses to the SPCA they would be euthanized. He said he had no transportation to bring them to auction and had distanced himself from Pony Club, nor were they volunteering to help with hay. He had no Internet, nor a phone line. A $35,000 ultrasound machine, his only chance to work as a vet, was stolen from his house that year.

His defense counsel charged that there was no cruelty and no wilful neglect of the horses.

“He was feeding them as best as he could,” said his defense lawyer. At the time, it would have been impossible to give the horses away.

“Nobody wants horses. You can get rid of a car for free easier than you can get rid of horses,” said his defense.

She charged that the SPCA “has a black eye over this” considering they never used any of their resources to rescue these horses.

The trial continued on Wednesday.

Schoyen-Marohn’s trial had to be postponed because she suffered a stroke. Her case is not scheduled to start until October 2013.