Vindication follows charges veterinarian improperly disposed of horse remains

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Feb 01, 2009

BRUNSWICK, GA. — In small-town America, it helps to know the community around you.

That's the lesson Dr. Richard Stobaeus Jr. wants to pass on to veterinarians who, like himself, might find themselves in a bad situation where the word of a neighbor can mean vindication.

Stobaeus, who is fighting charges of improperly disposing of two dead horses in Glynn County, had people around him to stand up and tell the real story.

On Dec. 18, Stobaeus was contacted by police after they found a dead horse on private land off a major roadway. The horse had belonged to a local rescuer, who Stobaeus says was advised to stop taking in horses she couldn't house because of restrictions from her landlord.

When one of her newest rescues became ill, Sherry Perry called Stobaeus — the only mixed-practice veterinarian around — to have a look. He advised her to euthanize the horse but she refused, according to an affidavit from John Wall, a resident who accompanied Stobaeus, another veterinarian and a University of Georgia graduate student to the woman's farm.

When Perry declined Stobaeus' offer to euthanize the horse, the doctor and his friends left, Wall said. Another affidavit by Donald Willis stated that Stobaeus contacted him to help Perry dispose of the horse after it died naturally the next day, and Davis brought the horse to another resident's property who offered his land for burial. But Davis left the horse on the wrong road, he says.

"Dr. Stobaeus called me after he discovered that I put the horse in the wrong place and on the wrong road. I went back out ... and properly buried the horse. To my knowledge, Dr. Stobaeus did not euthanize the horse, transport the horse or bury the horse," Willis says.

In the following weeks, Stobaeus says he encountered many problems over what should have been a simple farm call. News stories painted him in a poor light, but colleagues from around the country have been calling with concern.

If he weren't the only large-animal veterinarian around, police never would have asked for his help in learning how the dead horses came to be dumped, but when it was the owner's word against his, Stobaeus says, luckily he was covered.

"If you are part of the community and something like this happens, the community rallies," Stobaeus says, hoping that his name will be cleared now that the truth is out. "Veterinarians aren't going to do this work if this happens."