UPDATE: 9:40 a.m. - May 2, 2021
HELENA - The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office has seized nearly 60 horses from a property north of Helena as they investigate potential animal neglect.
Sheriff Leo Dutton says the horses were in states of moderate to severe neglect and on Tuesday, his office seized 57 animals and brought them here to the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds in Helena.
“The veterinarians, the Department of Livestock all need to go through these animals, inspect them, see what kind of condition they are in," Sheriff Dutton said.
He explained the horses were taken from a ranch in the north Helena Valley after an investigation that began several weeks ago.
Authorities served a search warrant and began moving the horses on Tuesday.
“If you have horses, if you have cows, and you neglect them, then I have no choice but to step in as the county animal health officer," Sheriff Dutton stated.
Sheriff Dutton noted this is one of the biggest animal neglect investigations in his more than 30 years with the Sheriff’s Office.
He said they got help in moving the horses from the US Forest Service, the Montana Department of Livestock, animal control and volunteers from local ranches.
So far, no arrests have been made, and no charges have been filed. Sheriff Dutton said the investigation is ongoing and his office will have to hold and care for the horses while any court case goes on.
He said they have already purchased some hay but veterinarians estimate they will need about one ton per day to take care of these animals.
Sheriff Dutton asked that anyone interested in helping provide hay to contact the Lewis & Clark County Sheriff’s Office at (406) 447-8204.
He added the Montana Department of Livestock and the veterinarians will have to complete their reports before any official charges are filed.
(first report: 4:23 p.m. - May 1, 2021)
The Lewis and Clark Co. Sheriff's Office says it has seized 57 horses as part of an investigation of an animal neglect case.
Sheriff Leo Dutton characterized the neglect as moderate to severe.
The sheriff's office served a warrant and begin moving the animals on Tuesday morning.
The horses are being moved to the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds.
Authorities have not released where the horses were taken from but said more than a dozen were already being held at the fairgrounds.
A veterinarian will examine the horses to get a better idea of their condition.
This is a developing story and will be updated.