Mark Marohn says he never hitched an ailing, underweight former racehorse to a car in order to tow it from a ditch.
The soft-spoken Langley veterinarian testified at his trial in Surrey Provincial Court on Friday.
“There’s no place to tie it to the car,” he said.
“It was never tied to the car.”
Marohn said the car ended up in the ditch because he and his wife were returning from a trip to the post office when they spotted the horse, an emaciated gelding named Buddy.
It had escaped and was heading down the road outside the Langley farm where Marohn lived.
When he pulled over, Marohn said the water-soaked shoulder of the road gave way and the car slid sideways into the ditch.
“There had been a lot of rain.”
He left his wife Carol Schoyen-Marohn in the car and chased the horse back into the farm, threw a halter on him and went back with the horse to see if his wife was OK.
She was shaken, but not physically injured.
When Marohn’s daughter came out to help, the horse suddenly bolted and landed in the ditch.
“He went over backwards.”
As Marohn and his daughter were struggling to get the horse’s leg underneath him, an RCMP officer arrived and ordered him out of the ditch.
He said he was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser for a lengthy period of time before he was formally charged.
Marohn and his wife were charged with animal cruelty after the 2008 incident.
The 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.
The horse was euthanized at the scene.
Marohn and Schoyen-Marohn were each charged with two criminal charges, one of causing an animal to be in distress and one of failing to provide “necessaries” for an animal.
He denies he ever admitted using the horse tow the car and insists none of the police at the scene asked him how Buddy ended up in the ditch.
“Amazingly, yes,” Marohn said during questioning by the prosecutor.
He said Buddy was an injured racehorse that was due to be euthanized when his daughter and a friend rescued him, one of four horses “dumped” at the farm.
Marohn said he asked the SPCA three times to take the horses, but was ignored.
He also asked a local horse club for help in finding new homes and feeding the animals, but none was forthcoming.
The events that led to his arrest and animal cruelty charges came after a series of personal setbacks that had left him virtually destitute, Marohn testified.
He was left unable to work after he broke his spine in three places in April of 2000 during a vacation and when he did return to work, he could not treat large animals like horses and the number of cases had to be cut back.
His wife also developed serious health issues of her own.
“It wiped us out financially.”
He successfully sued for compensation for the holiday accident, but the money didn’t arrive in time to save their house from foreclosure.
“We were homeless,” Marohn said.
“We bounced around to different friends.”
Eventually he was able to lease a 2.5 acre farm site.
He and his wife had separated by then, but when the owner sold the property, she came back to pack up her possessions.
The stress had taken a toll.
“I was very sickly, very disoriented, not feeling well.”
He was down to 128 pounds, from 193.
After the story of the alleged towing became public, threats started pouring in, Marohn said.
He said he has records of internet postings from people saying Marohn and his family should be killed, should be burnt, should be tied to the back of a truck and dragged until they were dead.
“Were there a lot of things in my life that were down and bad and heading further down?” Marohn said.
“I’d have to say there were.”
Defence and prosecution have been conducting a voir dire, or trial within a trial to decide what evidence is admissible.
The case is set to resume Oct. 11 when the judge is expected to rule on a defence application to exclude much of the evidence, on the grounds police violated Marohn’s rights.
The defence has also filed a document indicating Marohn may seek to have the charges quashed because of excessive delays.
Schoyen-Marohn’s trial had to be postponed because she suffered a stroke. Her case is not scheduled to start until October of next year.