Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16713
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: horse
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Thursday, Jan 1, 2009

County: Shannon

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Daniel Dougan

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

Oglala Sioux Tribe officials, assisted by state and Shannon County authorities have rescued about 70 horses that were starving and without water in a barren pasture near Porcupine on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The animals, many initially too weak to move, including one that had to be killed, are now being cared for at an undisclosed location.

About 10 other horses, in a herd that Shannon County Sheriff Jim Daggett describes as "good quality," had died from starvation and lack of water.

The owner, from North Dakota, is not a tribal member but could face tribal charges and penalties for allegedly neglecting the horses and abusing tribal lands, according to Daggett. The investigation is continuing, and there may be state charges, he said.

Daggett declined to identify the owner of the horses or the landowner.

Authorities spent most of Thursday carrying water and hay to horses that were then too weak to be moved from a pasture along Gooseneck Road.

Daggett said he was close to tears when he saw the condition of the animals. Many of the horses could not stand and had to be helped to their feet, he said.

"It was a very sad deal," Daggett said.

Daggett said there was no grass left in the 400- to 600-acre pasture where the horses ranged. The horses had even stripped the bark from trees along a dry creek bed.

"The only thing they had to eat was their own manure," he said.

A generator and pump sat idle at a well in the pasture, but the water tanks were empty. The strongest horses survived on water from what little snow remained in the barren pasture's draws, Daggett said.

According to Daggett, the horses' owner had arranged for someone to provide food and water for the horses. "That just didn't happen," the sheriff said.

Daggett said some people in the area had been complaining about the horses since late October. He said the size of the pasture and rugged terrain made it difficult to monitor the horses, and officials were unable to immediately identify or locate the owner of the unbranded horses, many of them broodmares and young horses possibly worth several thousands of dollars.

When the responsible party couldn't be located, a date was set to remove the animals, he said. Daggett assisted Oglala Sioux Tribe officials in confiscating the horses because the owner is a not a tribal member. The pasture is on land held in trust for a tribal member.

Teamwork between tribal and state authorities made Thursday's rescue effort go smoothly, Daggett said. Several agencies, including the OST Parks and Recreation Authority, OST Department of Public Safety, OST land operations and the South Dakota Brand Board, cooperated in confiscating the horses.

"There were a lot of people who were concerned and were very appreciative of what we were doing," Daggett said. A neighboring rancher brought hay for the horses.

Daggett said some of the horses still might not survive. The owner has agreed to pay for a veterinarian to treat the horses and for their ongoing care.

According to Daggett, this is not the first case of neglected horses on tribal and non-tribal lands this winter. He estimates that at least 220 horses have been "dumped" within the reservation's boundaries this winter. Tribal officials place that number closer to 500, he said.

Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler said seven neglected horses were impounded near Hermosa in December because the owner was unable to care for them. One horse had to be put to death, but the owner was allowed to keep two or three of the horses. Authorities are monitoring the horses to make sure they are properly cared for, Wheeler said.

State veterinarian Sam Holland said in December that there had been a 10 percent increase statewide in cases of inhumane treatment of animals. He attributed many of those cases to lack of owner knowledge about the care required for livestock and a lack of financial resources.

An owner no longer able to provide care earlier this month voluntarily surrendered 18 horses to Humane Society of the Black Hills, which has helped find new owners.

Case Updates

A Shannon County jury found the owner of a herd of horses discovered starving on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation during the winter of 2009 guilty Tuesday of 51 counts of inhumane treatment of animals.

Daniel Dougan, 54, of Minot, N.D., was charged with 59 misdemeanor counts of inhumane treatment. The jury found him not guilty on only eight counts of inhumane treatment, according Shannon County State's Attorney Jim Sword.

Each charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.

The horses were the subject of a joint rescue operation after they were found starving and suffering from dehydration in a barren pasture near Gooseneck Road in Shannon County.

Sixty-two horses were still alive when authorities with the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Department of Parks and Recreation, tribal police officers and Shannon County Sheriff Jim Daggett removed the weakened animals from the pasture.

About 10 to 15 horses were found dead and in various stages of decomposition. One animal was too weak to move and was euthanized at the scene. Because Dougan is a not a tribal member, tribal authorities had no jurisdiction over him. Dougan's prosecution was left to Shannon County. Sword and Shannon County deputy state's attorney Courtney Stottler handled the case.

Tribal authorities confiscated the horses and cooperated with Dougan's prosecution, Sword said. Parks and Recreation officials testified at the two-day trial about the lengthy road to recovery for the horses.

Custer veterinarian Dr. Sharon Seneczko, who treated the horses, described to the jury how an animal dies of starvation. Seneczko also described the condition of the surviving horses.

A tribal adoption program was created to find suitable home for the horses. A few of the animals remain in the care of the tribe.

"The others have found good homes," Sword said.

Dougan remains free on bond pending sentencing on Nov. 17.
Source: Rapid City Journal - Oct 26, 2010
Update posted on Oct 28, 2010 - 11:35AM 


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