HELENA — Robert Edwin Erickson was found guilty of aggravated animal cruelty by a jury on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Erickson, 71 years old, was one of three men charged in the June 2021 case of 58 horses being abused on the Erickson property.
On June 1st, the Lewis & Clark County Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant at a property on the 6700 block of Applegate Road. They seized 58 horses and took them to the Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds. The animals were later transferred to a separate secure location.
According to court documents, a veterinarian joined the Sheriff's Office and determined that eight horses were underweight, 19 horses had overgrown hooves, many had lice, and five had abnormal hernias.
According to court documents, law enforcement officials had received calls between 2013 and 2021 about the welfare of the horses on the property.
The documents say that in 2018, animal control officers observed injured horses that received inadequate medical care, a barn that was full of mud and waste, and poorly maintained pastures. Officers say they told the Ericksons to clean up the facilities and get the horses proper treatment.
According to court documents, Erickson had been convicted of cruelty to horses in Phillips County in 1997. He and Alan Erickson had been charged with neglecting horses again in the same county in 2008. As part of a deferred prosecution agreement in that latter case, documents say the men were required to reduce the number of horses in their possession and provide adequate food and water.
Robert Erickson is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on June 22.
Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton told MTN the judge will determine where the animals will go at a later date.
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The federal Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT) was signed into law in 2019. The law is targeted primarily at people involved in "animal crushing" fetish videos and multi-state criminal rings involving animals. Under the law, a person can be changed with a federal felony if they’re found torturing animals. This includes crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, and impaling.
But the federal law doesn't apply in many situations, notably in cases of neglect, which are usually prosecuted via existing state laws. A person can be charged with a state misdemeanor when they’re found neglecting an animal by failing to provide basic needs like adequate food, water, and shelter. Click here to read more.