GREAT FALLS — A woman has been charged in Great Falls with several counts of animal cruelty after a fire on her property near Sun Prairie on May 6.
The fire was reported at 5:02 p.m. at 77 Wexford Lane, south of McIver Road. Firefighters had it under control within half an hour, with mop-up operations continuing for several hours.
The unoccupied mobile home had several additions that served as a barn/corral area for animals. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
Charges were filed against Pamela Jo Polejewski last week after investigators discovered dozens of dogs, cats, goats, ducks, horses, birds, and other animals on the property that appeared to be living in various stages of neglect or abuse.
This wasn't the first time the property near Sun Prairie has been searched. MTN reported back in 2005 and 2012, when Polejewski faced similar charges and animal seizures. Documents also show court violations in Western Montana.
Back in 2008, officials found more than two dozen animals on her property in Libby after she was ordered not to possess any animals as part of a suspended sentence.
Court documents list the following animals that were seized following the May 6 fire: 52 dogs, 19 cats, 14 goats, 11 horses, 29 chickens, 21 waterfowl, 12 rabbits, 3 turkeys, 6 pigs, 1 tortoise, 1 ferret, 1 cockatiel, 2 parakeets, and 1 fish.
Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter says his office is not soliciting money or assistance to help care for the animals at this point. The animals are currently being cared for at Montana ExpoPark. Slaughter requested that the public respect the investigation and do not try to visit the animals.
The property was searched by deputies from the Cascade County Sheriff's Office, a veterinarian, and personnel from the Great Falls Animal Shelter.
The charging documents include the following statements:
- Law enforcement saw many dogs dogs in multiple makeshift kennels throughout the property. The kennels were not suitable for the dogs to live in. Garbage was piled against the kennels, in the kennels, and on the ground spread out across the property. It did not appear the dogs had food. Some dogs had hay scattered on the ground as a floor, but most of the dogs were living in mud from the rain. Multiple ducks and geese were in the same type of environment as the dogs in makeshift fenced areas with a plastic pool with no water in it. No feed for the waterfowl was seen.
- Law enforcement noticed a cage full full of kittens, multiple small fenced areas with dogs, more dogs running loose on the property, and goats running loose on the property. The cage full of kittens appeared to have so many kittens they barely had any room to move around. The floor of the cage was not visible due to the number of kittens present.
- The veterinarian found a mini-horse on the property whose feet had not been cared for and were so long that they had curled, causing deformities to the horse. The veterinarian also found inside one of the trailers a deceased bloated dog with a necrotic mouth. There was also a cage containing five kittens, a pot-bellied pig, and four puppies running around in their own feces. The veterinarian stated that the trailer confinement was cruel to the animals as there was no food or water, the animals were confined with the dead dog and an over-abundance of fecal matter, and they were unable to escape the trailer.
- An adult dog was removed from the trailer that had a severely disfigured face due to an infection; the veterinarian elected to immediately euthanize the dog to end its suffering.
- Inside the personal residence of Pamela, investigators were confronted again with the smell of urine and feces. Inside were 10 dogs, one of which was locked in a kennel without water or food. They discovered a tortoise that was sideways in a cage leaning on the wall. The animal appeared very dry and did not appear to have any food or water. Another veterinarian examined the tortoise and said it suffered injury to its shell and injuries to its legs, likely due to the cage.
- Many of the cats/kittens were suffering from eye infections that if left untreated can result in the loss of the eye(s).
The court documents state that Polejewski claims to operate a no-kill non-profit called “Hooves Paws and Claws” as an animal sanctuary, but records indicate that the organization was involuntarily dissolved by the Secretary of State in December 2018.
Polejewski has filed a civil suit against Cascade County alleging that her rights have been violated and requesting that the animals be returned to her, along with financial compensation.
Her suit alleges trespassing, malicious prosecution, unreasonable search and seizure, due process violations, religious liberty violations, free speech violations, conspiracy, warrantless entry to property, and more.
Polejewski said in a letter to Cascade County Attorney Josh Racki: "I have many dogs, cats, goats, horses and other animals. Many of these animals were neglected when I adopted them. Many are aged and fragile. I have many people, including veterinarians, that can attest to my diligent care for these animals. I love my animals and have committed my life and all my resources to caring for them. Many people, out of the goodness of their hearts, help support me financially in the care of these animals."
Polejewski added that her animals are rescue animals: "Many were broken and injured (physically and emotionally) from the abuse or neglect by their former owners; or they were simply abandoned to a life of starvation and depravity."
Polejewski has been charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty, and four misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals. We have requested, but not yet received, a booking photo from the Cascade County Detention Center.