Officials in central North Dakota who have asked for custody of 157 horses that were seized from a New Salem man because of alleged neglect told a judge Thursday that they want to put them up for adoption.
The horses were seized after authorities found 99 dead horses on the man's property in Burleigh and Morton counties. On Wednesday, those counties petitioned the court to place the animals permanently in the custody of the two sheriff's departments. The man has not been criminally charged.
Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Jeff Ubben and Morton County Assistant State's Attorney Jackson Lofgren called law enforcement officers, veterinarians and volunteers to testify about the condition of the animals during a 2 1/2-hour hearing Thursday, the Bismarck Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/VGQOvZ ).
South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick has 10 days to issue an opinion.
State Veterinarian Susan Keller said an investigator from her office talked to the man about the nutritional needs of the horses and was concerned that he did not understand the issues. Authorities eventually issued a search warrant on the man's property.
Morton County Sheriff Dave Shipman testified that numerous dead horses were found in a pile and appeared to have been dragged out of view of the road. Others were piled up in barns and a trailer.
Deputy Bryan Kirchmeier said he found an aborted fetus that appeared to have been near term. The pasture was bare, he said.
"Basically, they had it ate down to the dirt," Kirchmeier testified.
Witnesses testified the horses had been chewing on fence posts and tree bark.
"Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anything as extreme," Keller said.
Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue has taken in the worst of the horses from Morton County. Burleigh County owes $1,500 to a Menoken rancher for feeding and caring for the 38 horses taken from the New Salem man's property.