Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19294
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: horse
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Attorneys/Judges
Judge(s): Blair Jones


For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.



Wednesday, Feb 1, 2012

County: Carbon

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Wendy Rehard

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

At least 26 starving horses have been removed from a Carbon County ranch and a woman using the ranch has been charged with a felony.

It is the second large-scale animal abuse case in the county in a year after charges were filed last February against a Bridger-area couple for allegedly starving half their band of horses.

On Thursday, Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon filed one felony aggravated animal cruelty charge against Wendy Rehard for allegedly starving at least half of the 63 horses on a ranch east of Luther.

After being tested by veterinarians, 26 of the thinnest and sickest of the horses were removed to another undisclosed ranch in Carbon County.

"If these animals were in the same physical condition in the summer when there wasn't all this winter hair, their condition would be striking," Nixon said.

Nixon said to his knowledge no horses have been euthanized yet.

According to the complaint filed in Carbon County District Court, Dennis Stevens of Luther called Carbon County Sheriff Deputy Jeremy Neibauer to say he and Jody Klessens had been providing Rehard with hay, pasture, money and diesel fuel to help her feed her horses.

The horses were living in a pasture with no feed or grass and, according to Stevens, had been seen "chewing on the fence post and eating their own manure."

Two days later, Neibauer and Deputy Jon Croft met with other concerned citizens and traveled to the ranch to meet with Rehard.

Croft said he saw several of her horses in a dirt pasture without feed or water. The irrigation ditch was frozen.

One horse appeared to score about a 2 on a health scale of 9, Croft said, using a commonly accepted test called the Henneke Body Condition Scoring system.

Animals with a BCS score below 3 are considered to be starving and 26 of Rehard's horses scored beneath that level and were moved off her ranch, Croft said.

The locations of the Rehard ranch and the rescue ranch where the 26 animals are being cared for will not be released, Nixon said.

After a search warrant was served on Feb. 1, veterinarian Sarah Barlau-Russell of Valley Vet Clinic in Absarokee examined all the horses.

At least 61 horses scored "thin" or "very thin" likely due to poor nutrition and neglect, according to court documents summarizing Barlau-Russell's observations. Also, three of the four horses tested had parasites or worms.

If convicted, Rehard faces a maximum penalty of $2,500 and two years in state custody.

Nixon said the single count against Rehard was only an initial charge and that he could bring more charges later, including potentially charging her with one count of cruelty per animal.

Rehard could not be reached for comment.

Attempts to reach those who reported the horses' condition ��" Jody Klessens, who runs a trucking business in Red Lodge and Dennis Stevens ��" also were unsuccessful. Stevens, a Minnesota businessman, retired to Luther and then opened several Great Clips hair salons in Billings.

The felony charge against Rehard was the latest in a string of horse abuse cases in this area.

In February 2011, Nixon charged Jack and Terry Martin individually with 26 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty for allegedly starving about half of around 60 horses on a ranch north of Bridger.

They both pleaded not guilty to all counts on Feb. 25. A trial was set for July 18, but was postponed.

If convicted on all counts, the Martins face up to 53 years in prison and $66,000 in fines.

A status hearing was scheduled for Thursday, but was postponed because their attorney, Steve Thuesen of Red Lodge, was out of town, Nixon said.

"They've been set for a change of plea a number of times, and basically have sought to always push back their change of plea and sentencing dates," Nixon said.

In the Martins' case, the horses remain on the ranch and are being cared for under supervision, Nixon said.

In Billings, Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said a third trial date for a horse abuse case against James Leachman of Billings has been scheduled. The original trial date was Aug. 15, 2011.

"We have a pretrial conference set for May 14 and the jury trial is set for June 11," he said.

Last year, Twito charged Leachman with eight primary misdemeanor counts of starving and not adjusting or removing leg bands on some of the 800 horses he had grazing on Crow Reservation land east of Billings. Most of the horses were confiscated and then sold at a U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs auction on the reservation last spring.

Leachman, who is represented by a public defender, has pleaded not guilty to all counts and has asked for a jury trial.


Case Updates

A Luther woman charged with animal cruelty following the removal of at least 26 starving horses from her ranch was sentenced Tuesday in Red Lodge.

Wendy Rehard was sentenced by District Court Judge Blair Jones to a four-year suspended sentence. She was also sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution to Carbon County and several private groups for the cost of rescuing the horses.

Rehard was charged in February with one felony count of animal cruelty after Carbon County deputies and animal welfare officials, following up on complaints from neighbors, removed at least 26 starving horses from a ranch.

The horses were moved to an undisclosed ranch in Carbon County where there were cared for and fed.

Neighbors complained that Rehard had horses living in a pasture with no feed or grass and that horses had been seen "chewing on the fence posts and eating their own manure."

An Absarokee veterinarian scored 61 horses at the Rehard ranch as "thin" or "very thin" likely due to poor nutrition and neglect.

Terry and Jack Martin, a married couple that ranches along Sand Creek north of Bridger, were also expected to be sentenced Tuesday in Red Lodge for starving horses.

In February 2011, the Martins were charged with 26 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty for allegedly starving nearly half of their band of more than 60 horses.
Source: Billings Gazette - July 10, 2012
Update posted on Jul 10, 2012 - 8:28PM 
On Feb. 1, Nixon charged horse owner Wendy Rehard of Luther with one felony count of aggravated animal cruelty for allegedly starving at least half of the 63 horses on her ranch. After being tested by veterinarians, 26 of the thinnest and sickest horses were moved to another caretaker ranch at an undisclosed location in Carbon County.

Details of her Rehard's potential plea agreement were not discussed publicly.

However, Nixon asked the judge for guidance on another issue, advice from a veterinarian that one of Rehard's 10 or 11 stallions be gelded or neutered as soon as possible.

"There is a safety issue with the other horses and the caretakers working around a mature stallion," Nixon said.

Jones set a hearing for 1:30 p.m. on March 27 at Stillwater County Courthouse in Columbus to consider the gelding request and Rehard is expected to attend.

Zook said so far the Beartooth Alliance has fed 20.7 tons of hay worth $3,105 to the horses on the caretaker ranch. The Alliance has collected $6,590 in donations for the Rehard horses.

Carbon County is paying for veterinary care. The cost of that care to date was not immediately available.
Source: billingsgazette.com - Mar 22, 2012
Update posted on Mar 23, 2012 - 10:25AM 

References

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