BILLINGS - A Billings area man has been charged with multiple counts of aggravated animal cruelty after law enforcement found numerous dogs shot to death and starving.
According to charging documents filed Monday, Michael James Bigelow, 34, has been charged with four counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty and nine counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. He is being held in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility.
Charging documents state Bigelow was arrested March 3 after an investigation was initiated by a Yellowstone County Sherrif's Office Animal Control Officer who received a complaint of several large dogs harassing horses on property off of Bender Road.
The officer was familiar with the property across the street from where the horses were being harassed due to an animal welfare call conducted in January. The 34-acre property is comprised of dilapidated sheds, campers, Quanset huts, pens, and overgrazed pasture with no running water and minimal electricity, court records state.
During the previous check, the officer met with a woman who owned the property and said she had taken over a livestock guardian dog kennel and breeding operation from her deceased husband.
When she returned to the property on March 3, the officer said she started walking around the property looking for the owner of a parked truck while calling out to announce her presence. The officer said she saw numerous dead dogs, a dead horse and litters of puppies, some running loose, and adult dogs chained up in poor condition, court records state.
The officer said she saw a human hand inside the Quanset hut and entered to check on the condition of person, who did not immediately respond to her announcing her presence. Once inside the man sat up and was later identified as Bigelow, the son of the woman who owns the property.
Court records state Bigelow was "disheveled with his clothes and skin appeared to be covered in dirt and his hair appeared dreaded due to lack of washing." Due to her observations, the officer called the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office to conduct a further investigation.
Several deputies searched the property after obtaining a search warrant and found numerous dogs dead from being shot and others chained and in poor health, court records state. Some of the dogs on the property were running loose and did appear to have access to some water although no food was found out on the property, court records state.
Also found on the property were five live horses and one dead horse. The horses had water but no food and were in poor condition. The dead horse appeared to be a source of food for some of the loose dogs, court records state.
A cow and a calf were found in a corral and appeared to be in good condition as food was available. There was water in a tank but a large block of ice prevented access to the melted water. There was also a small flock of sheep in a small pen without food or water.
During the investigation, court records state, Bigelow was observed drinking Coors beer and a detective reported the odor of marijuana coming from the man. Bigelow became "highly agitated and was screaming profanities at everyone, including his mother," court records state. He also allegedly threatened to shoot deputies and he was arrested on outstanding warrants at the scene.