HELENA — On Tuesday, Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton asked the community for assistance as his office began caring for 58 horses seized from a Helena Valley property as part of an animal neglect investigation. On Wednesday, the community responded.
At the Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds, a number of residents began bringing in bales of hay 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. Veterinarians have said they will need about a ton of hay each day.
David and Barbara Pool came in from the north Valley, with the back of their truck filled with hay. They 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. “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 farms and ranches don’t have much to spare. “It’s the end of the year; you brought 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.”
By the end of Wednesday, Dutton estimated community members had donated enough hay to support the horses for another two days. He said 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. 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 hold them as long as legal action in the neglect case continues.
On Wednesday, a veterinarian was on hand 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.”
If you are interested in donating hay or making a monetary contribution, you can call the Lewis & Clark County Sheriff’s Office at 406-447-8204. Dutton said 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 hay 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.