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Community members donate hay to feed horses in Helena Valley neglect investigation

Horse Hay Donation
Horse Neglect Case
Posted at 10:31 AM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 12:31:11-04

HELENA — Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton asked the community for assistance on Tuesday as his office began caring for 58 horses seized from a Helena Valley property as part of an animal neglect investigation -- and on Wednesday, the community responded.

A number of residents began bringing in bales of hay to the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds to help with feeding the animals.

Dutton said they have also received monetary donations to support the horses’ care.

The sheriff’s office is feeding the horses several times a day and veterinarians have said they will need about a ton of hay each day.

David and Barbara Pool -- who came in from the north valley with the back of their truck filled with hay -- said they heard about the horses and contacted the Sheriff’s Office to see if they could help.

“We had some extra hay and we thought we’d bring it down here,” said David Pool. “It’s kind of the right thing to do.”

The need for donations came at a difficult time, as the season’s first cut of hay hasn’t happened yet, and many local farms and ranches don’t have much to spare.

“It’s the end of the year; you bought your hay because the new hay will be here in July, so you’re getting down to the nubbins,” Pool said. “But I’ve got some extra hay, so this is a good place for it to be.”

Dutton estimated community members had donated enough hay to support the horses for another two days, adding that they’re grateful for everything that people have contributed.

“You know that comes straight from their heart, because hay is in short supply – the ranchers need that hay,” Dutton said. “So the fact that they are giving it to us, that’s gold – it really is.

"The community is awesome to rally around us and these horses," Dutton added. "We appreciate it; we know that it comes at a great cost.”

The horses were brought to the fairgrounds Tuesday. The Sheriff’s Office will have to hold them as long as legal action in the neglect case continues.

A veterinarian was on hand Wednesday to examine the animals, and a farrier was brought in to check their hooves.

“Unfortunately, these horses are not broke, and they’re not accustomed to being handled,” said Dutton. “They had to sedate several horses to at least start to get them so we could trim their hooves. That’s going to be a slow process.”

“It’s too bad, but they’re in good hands now,” David Pool said. “They’ll get taken care of.”

Pool said he was glad to have been able to help. “That’s why they call it a community, right?” he said. “It works.”

People interested in donating hay or making a monetary contribution can contact the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office at (406) 447-8204. Dutton noted they will be setting up a bank account for donations on Thursday.

The sheriff’s office is asking that anyone who isn’t making a donation stay away from the horses for now. In a Facebook post, they said the animals are under heavy stress, and they want to keep them as calm as possible.

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