Guilty Verdicts in Montana Pack Horse Case

A father and son from Georgia were found guilty Jan. 30 of 21 counts of animal cruelty for overworking and neglecting four horses during a pack trip last summer through the mountains of Montana.

Ravalli County Justice Court Judge Jim Bailey sentenced Craig Heydon to 10 months in jail, with a $5,850 fine. Curtis Heydon was given 11 months in jail and a $6,435 fine. Bailey also ordered the pair to forfeit ownership of the horses to the Bitter Root Humane Association and pay for all rehabilitation costs incurred, as well as boarding fees. The Heydons' lawyer, Matthew Stevenson, filed for an appeal. He was not available for comment.

"It was pretty sweet to hear guilty read 21 times," said Vicki Dawson, director of the Bitter Root Humane Association, the organization that fostered the horses after they were seized.

The two horses that were in the worst condition are doing "really well," according to Dawson. Their corneal ulcers, thought to have been caused by lack of protection from insects, have healed. However, it is still unclear if there will be permanent damage to the animals' hooves.

Dawson estimates the veterinary costs of rehabilitating the horses to be in the thousands.

"The Bitter Root Humane Association is extremely appreciative to the Ravalli County prosecutors for their work in this case," Dawson said.

Additionally, "There are a record number of bills in front of the legislature right now to toughen up animal protection laws in Montana. This sends a message you can't come to Montana and get away with this," she added.

County prosecutor John Bell told the Ravalli Republic, a local newspaper, there is the possibility of developing a plea agreement for the anticipated appeal.

Read more about the case.  

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Liz Brown

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