A former Langley veterinarian who used an emaciated horse to try to tow a car out of a South Langley ditch three and a half years ago has been spared jail.
Mark Marohn was facing the possibility of six months behind bars when he was sentenced on Friday in Surrey provincial court to two years probation and 150 hours of community service. He is also prohibited from owning or caring for animals for three years.
In his reasons, Judge Reginald Harris said that incarceration is not necessary to achieve the goal of “denunciation and deterrence,” adding that has already happened, in part because of the intense media scrutiny Marohn has been subjected to since December, 2008, when “Buddy” a former racehorse was tied to the bumper of a car that had become stuck in a ditch and used to try to pull the vehicle out of the mud. The exhausted horse could not be revived and was put down at the scene.
In March, Harris found Marohn, 58, guilty of two animal abuse charges, including one of neglect and one of permitting animals to be in distress, and on Friday sentenced him to 24 months probation on each count, to be served concurrently.
Marohn must complete his community service within the first 15 months of the sentence, Harris continued.
Taking into account Marohn’s poor physical health, Harris suggested the veterinarian’s education and professional background will help him to fulfill his obligation.
“I expect your experience and training has a lot to offer the community. It’s a way of giving back to the community,” Harris told Marohn.
Before passing sentence, Harris described Marohn as a man of high intelligence, who had earned three bachelor degrees and served with the U.S. military from 1972 to ’75.
After moving to British Columbia in 1993, Marohn enjoyed a life of professional employment and volunteered with the SPCA, Harris noted.
But his circumstances changed following a Hawaiian vacation in April, 2000 when a boogie boarding accident left him with a broken neck.
Although he regained his ability to walk following surgery and rehabilitation, Marohn suffered from memory loss, cognitive, visual and spatial difficulties, as well as being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and a number of emotional disorders, including post traumatic stress disorder and depression.
In July 2008, Marohn separated from his wife, Carol Schoyen-Marohn (whose own trial was postponed after she suffered a stroke).
Each of these factors played a role in Marohn’s judgment and decision-making abilities, the judge said.
By the fall of 2008, as the family was about to be evicted from their rental property, they had begun to sell personal items to buy food, and the severe financial strain also contributed to the horse’s lack of care, Harris stated.
“It’s clear that if (Marohn) had had proper means, he would have properly cared for Buddy,” said Harris.
In 2008 Marohn owned six horses, including Buddy, all of which were growing steadily thinner, but he had reportedly refused an offer by the SPCA to take the animals because his daughter would not have been able to visit her pet. Following Buddy’s death, the surviving animals were seized by the SPCA and all but one has made a complete recovery.
Crown prosecutor Liane O’Grady had asked for a three to four month conditional sentence and that Marohn be required to repay the $1,183 the SPCA spent to treat Buddy.
She also asked that he be banned for life from owning animals. However, Harris opted to limit the ban to three years, recognizing that Marohn had dedicated his life and education to the betterment of animals.
Marohn’s lawyer, Jacquie Percival, meanwhile, had called for an absolute discharge.
Outside the courtroom following sentencing, O’Grady said she was satisfied with the sentence, noting that the judge had given careful consideration to his decision.
The Crown prosecutor called Marohn’s case “an interesting and sad one.”
“It’s sad for everyone,” she said.