Waldoboro police arrested a 51-year-old Rockland man Jan. 12 on charges of seven counts of cruelty to animals and four counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, according to Police Chief Bill Labombarde.

Donald L. Genthner was arrested without incident at the Waldoboro Police Department. He was taken to the Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset Jan. 12. He was later released on bail, according to the jail.

Waldoboro police launched an investigation in December into the death of horses on a farm off Chapel Road in Waldoboro.

The aggravated animal cruelty charges are Class C felonies and the other charges are  less severe Class D misdemeanors, according to the police chief.

In a press release, the Waldoboro Police Department said the charges resulted from the death of three horses and the severe neglect and maltreatment of eight horses. “Investigators believed that Genthner recklessly caused the death of three horses brought on by malnutrition and caused another horse to be in severe pain, brought on by malnutrition and an injured leg that never received medical attention,” the release said. “Although four additional horses reportedly died at the property, investigators were unable to determine if the deaths were the result of abuse or if [the horses] died from natural causes.”

Labombarde said the horses lived in very poor conditions. They were up to their knees in mud and feces in their pen, according to the police chief. He said that when a horse has a crack in its hoof and walks in feces, it can get an infection.

Genthner is the only one being charged in the case.

“They were his horses, and they were under his control,” Labombarde said Jan. 13.

Genthner did not own the Chapel Road property. Labombarde has said in previous statements that the person who owns the property is not responsible for the problems.

The property owner, Betsy Piper, said in previous statements that she allowed a friend to build a barn on her property and keep his horses there. Piper owns 87 acres of land in Waldoboro.

Four horses arrived there in October 2008. In the summer and fall of 2009, more horses were moved to the property, Piper said.

In September or October, two older mares died. Two more, a gelding and a female, died in early November, she said.

When the investigation began, one horse was found dead on the property. Another had to be euthanized immediately. Labombarde said a third was taken to an animal hospital in Wiscasset, where staff tried to save it, but it eventually had to be euthanized as well.

Police had a necropsy, or post-mortem examination, performed on a horse to determine the cause of death. Labombarde said bone marrow was extracted and examined by experts at Purdue University as part of the investigation.

Lambombarde said that in a normal, healthy horse, bone marrow should show about 66 to 93 percent fat. The two horses that died and were tested in Waldoboro had 3 percent and 5.4 percent fat in their bone marrow. He said that shows they were starved.

“There was help available for [Genthner] and he refused it,” Labombarde said.

The police chief said one investigator from the Maine Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare Program based in Augusta aided in the investigation. Labombarde said the Animal Welfare Program helps police in investigations and provides resources and information, but criminal charges are brought by the police department.

Police spent a month investigating the case. Detective Lance Mitchell investigated it for the Waldoboro Police Department and was assisted by Animal Control Officer Laurice Ducharme.

One of Genthner’s bail conditions is that he may not own or possess animals. He will be arraigned in Lincoln County Superior Court March 25.

The Lincoln County Animal Shelter, Piper and members of the community have been working together to help the animals. Several 4-H groups have provided volunteers and aid. Two 4-H groups took 83 bales of hay to the farm for the ailing horses.