Montana Horse Rescuers Charged with Animal Cruelty

Two Montana horse rescuers are facing animal cruelty charges connected to the seizure of more than 30 animals from a Broadwater County ranch.

According to affidavits obtained from Broadwater County Attorney Karla Mae Bosse, Broadwater County Sheriff's personnel received several complaints alleging that horses residing at Rocky Acres Horse Rescue in Townsend, Mont., were malnourished with insufficient access to hay and water. On March 6, sheriff's department personnel requested a voluntary inspection of the condition of the premises and animals residing there; according to the documents, rescue owners Dalene Ann Rindal and Thomas William Jessberger declined the voluntary inspection. Sheriff's deputies continued to investigate from a distance, the affidavits said.

“From a distance, it appeared that hay and water were both on offer; however, the condition of the animals continued to decline and reports of concern by neighbors and former volunteers at the rescue continued to be received by the Broadwater County Sheriff's Office,” the affidavits said. “There was some indication that some horses were held separately from the larger group, and without any access to hay and/or water.”

On March 11, acting on a warrant, investigators found moldy hay and insufficient shelter for the horses, the affidavit said. Additionally, a veterinary examination revealed that the majority of the animals scored between 1 and 3 on the 9-point Henneke body condition scale, the affidavits said. During that examination, the sheriff's personnel seized 29 allegedly malnourished horses, the affidavits said; five allegedly malnourished goats were also seized. Another investigation on March 24 revealed the carcass of an allegedly malnourished mare buried on the property.

On April 11, warrants were issued for both Rindal and Jessberger; each was charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty and 35 counts of felony animal cruelty, according to documents obtained from Bosse. If convicted, Rindal and Jessberger face penalties of up to a year in jail and/or a fine of $1,000 for the misdemeanor count, and up to two years in jail and fines up to $2,500 for each felony count.

Neither Rindal nor Jessberger was available for comment.

The pair is slated to appear in court on April 18, Bosse's documents said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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