Burleigh County seizes 38 horses from Morton County owner

2013-01-29T16:47:00Z Burleigh County seizes 38 horses from Morton County ownerBy JENNY MICHAEL | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

Burleigh County officials seized 38 horses from a man on the same day Morton County officials took 119 horses away from him after finding dozens of others dead.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department seized 119 horses from property north of New Salem on Monday. Officers found 96 dead horses on the property when serving a search warrant over the weekend.

The seized horses are being fed and cared for there, other than the 25 in worst shape. Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue has agreed to provide care for those horses. The case will be sent to the Morton County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Burleigh County Detective Mike Stoltz said 38 horses were seized from the same owner in Burleigh County on Monday. There were three dead horses on that property, he said.

The owner of the horses has not been identified because he has not been arrested or charged in the cases in either county. Depriving animals of necessary food, water or shelter falls under the state law involving overworking, mistreating or abandoning animals. It is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison or fines of up to $2,000.

Stoltz said the county began getting reports about the horses on the Burleigh County property within the last couple of weeks, and it took time to find somewhere to move them. A private citizen is caring for and feeding the horses from Burleigh County, Stoltz said.

The land on which the horses in Burleigh County were kept was sufficient for the number of animals, but there was no vegetation left.

“They needed something to supplement them,” Stoltz said.

It is rare for Burleigh County officials to have to seize that many animals, especially livestock, he said. The case is under investigation and will be reviewed by the Burleigh County State’s Attorney’s Office for possible charges.

Stoltz said the forecast for the coming days, including bitterly cold temperatures and strong winds, made the immediate seizure of the horses necessary.

“It was best to get them out of there as soon as possible,” he said.

Morton County Sheriff Dave Shipman said the removal of the 25 horses in the worst condition at the Morton County ranch went well on Tuesday.

There is plenty of feed now on the property northwest of New Salem for the remaining horses, and the horses’ owner has family members at the home to help make sure the horses are cared for properly, the sheriff said.

If the hay runs out, Shipman said, the county will have to buy some or solicit hay donations. Shipman also has been working on obtaining grant money from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for hay money.

He said he does not know how long the horses will be in the custody of Morton County.

Allison Smith, founder of Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue, said Shipman has been in contact with her for quite some time for advice and assistance.

Smith, who has participated in numerous horse seizures in other counties and states, said she has been impressed with the way the case has been handled, with as little “red tape” as possible and cooperation from all parties.

Smith believes officials did not know until obtaining a search warrant on Friday how bad the situation really was, despite months of welfare checks on the Morton County animals. She said such matters take time to develop and it takes time to get information necessary for a seizure. The horses may not all have been visible from the road or may have been deep into a pasture, she said.

“I don’t think anybody had a clue that there were dead horses out there. I think everybody was pretty shaken and alarmed to find what they found,” she said.

The horses Smith expected to be taken in by Triple H were those deemed by veterinarians to be in the worst condition. She had not yet seen the horses as of Tuesday morning, but she has taken in horses in such condition before.

“It’s pretty alarming when you see it,” she said.

Triple H is in need of supplies and feed to help care for the horses. Hay and oats are the most immediate needs, but Smith said halters and blankets also are needed.

Any extra blankets will be used on the horses still on the Morton County ranch in need of such protection, and any excess halters will be kept on hand in case more animals must be taken from the property, she said.

“I have high hopes that we can get them all what they need,” Smith said.

Donations can be taken to 214 Riverwood Ave. in Mandan. Monetary donations can be made over PayPal at the Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue website, www.hhhmhr.org or can be mailed to Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue, P.O. Box 4125, Bismarck, N.D. 58502.

Western Unlimited, 722 S. 26th St. in Bismarck, also was collecting donations for Triple H on Tuesday. Rhonda Klocke, an employee at the store, said all of the immediate blanket needs were filled on Tuesday, though more may be needed in the coming days. Western Unlimited sold blankets for the rescue effort at a discounted price.

Klocke said people also can donate feed and other items through Western Unlimited.

Reach Jenny Michael at 701-250-8225 or jenny.michael@bismarcktribune.com.

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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