More than 100 horses seized in Morton County, ND


Bismark Tribune / Jenny Michael / January 28, 2013

WILL KINCAID/Tribune file photo Morton County Sheriff Dave Shipman.

WILL KINCAID/Tribune file photo Morton County Sheriff Dave Shipman.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has taken more than 100 horses into its care after finding 96 dead horses at a ranch north of New Salem over the weekend.

Sheriff Dave Shipman said 96 of 215 horses at the ranch were dead on Saturday. The sheriff’s department received a search warrant to seize the rest of the animals. On the advice of a local veterinarian, only the animals in the worst condition will be removed from the ranch, Shipman said. He said there is adequate feed and water for the rest of the horses, and they will be cared for on scene.

“We’re in the process of doing that right now,” he said.

The case will be forwarded to the Morton County State’s Attorney’s Office for possible charges.

Shipman said the owner of the horses has a “soft heart” for horses and has been raising and caring for them in his retirement.

“My personal opinion is he just got in way, way over his head,” the sheriff said. “He is cooperating with us, and he realizes that there is a problem.”

State veterinarian Susan Keller said her office works with local veterinarians to assist officials on reports of animal abuse or neglect. The scope of the Morton County case is “extremely rare,” and Keller said recent cold weather likely played a big part in the high death toll.

“You can have abuse and neglect, and death doesn’t always result,” she said. “Sometimes, timing of lack of adequate feed and water and weather come together. That’s probably what happened in this situation.”

Shipman said his department began receiving calls about loose horses and concerns about horses not being fed on the ranch in the past month. In mid-December, local veterinarians “scored” the horses and gave recommendations on what they needed to maintain their health. A deputy responded to a welfare check last week and from the road could see two horses dead. Officials obtained a search warrant, which was executed on Monday.

“Some are in OK shape, some are in rough shape yet,” Shipman said.

Keller explained that animals need a higher caloric intake of “good quality feed” during extreme cold. All the poor quality hay in the world won’t do any good in rough conditions, while quality hay would provide the nutrients necessary for horses, she said. Keller added that owners of horses and other animals should work with a veterinarian to make sure they are getting adequate nutrition during cold spells.

Morton County Extension Agent Jackie Buckley, who has not been involved in the case, said “high-energy feed,” such as grains, can help, and adequate access to water also is important.

Keller and Buckley both said horses need access to shelter from the wind. Wind chill temperatures could dip to more than -40 this week, according to the National Weather Service.

“They’re talking some extended subzero temperatures” in the coming days, Keller said.

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • AnneMH

    There is no excuse for things to go this far. Time and time again dozens of horses have to die before someone steps in and removes the rest. It should NEVER get to that point. Abuse and neglect need to be taken more seriously. People drag their feet on these issues, and the horse are the ones that suffer.

    January 30, 2013
  • Jeanne H

    I have to agree with Anne on this one. As I was reading the story I thought of the “sanctuary” rescue a couple years ago up in that general area. And this time authorities were of the situation over a month ago?! And got around to a “welfare check” just a week ago? What the hell is wrong with people who KNOW about it and don’t follow up for a month? We have no right to be in charge of this planet anymore – we all are diminished by stupidity like this.

    January 30, 2013
  • vickysecho

    “softheart”? He was killing them! I don’t understand how someone can own 200 horses and not see them dying!!!!! Thank goodness, someone cared enough to do something.

    January 30, 2013
  • Marge Mullen

    Shame on the vet and the law. There maybe possible charges??

    I am tired of being asked to pretend that Stupid is a virtue.

    January 30, 2013
  • Laurie Sippel

    I wonder how stupid the authorities are when they allow almost 100 horse to die before they do anything. They are just as responsible for this torture.

    January 30, 2013
  • Christy

    A “soft heart?” Are you kidding me? When are we going to STOP making excuses for neglectful hoarders? I have a soft heart for horses. That means I have THREE and I volunteer for an organization that retrains and rehomes OTTBs. It doesn’t mean I collect over 200 horses and let half of them die. That’s not a “soft heart.” What a bunch of crap.

    “My personal opinion is he just got in way, way over his head,” the sheriff said. “He is cooperating with us, and he realizes that there is a problem.” Wow, sheriff. Really? He kills a hundred horses and now he “cooperates.” WTF?

    January 31, 2013
  • shirley smith

    I agree these horses need shelter from the freezing wind chill and cold the horses are the losers here with nothing being done!

    February 1, 2013
  • Robyn Gipp

    I agree with everyone….This is really a sick shame of authorities to take so long. How can any horse even look outside their window and see horses dying and go one sleeping and functioning like everything is Ok….YOu’d have to be mentally jacked up and not call for help and surrender…How Pathetic to be a human being!!

    February 5, 2013