New Charge Added in Montana Cruelty Case

A Montana rancher accused of maltreating a herd of horses is now facing at total of 16 animal cruelty counts.

In December 2010, 450 horses owned by James Leachman were residing on 9,400 acres of deeded land and 30,000 acres of leased Crow Tribal land southeast of Billings, Mont., with scant forage and no water source. At the request of the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Department, Jeff Peila, DVM, evaluated the horses. At the time of his evaluation, Peila said the horses' conditions were beginning to deteriorate. Three weeks later the animals' conditions continued to decline, Peila said. Volunteers were called in to provide the horses with feed, water, and other care.

In January, Leachman was charged with 10 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty for negligently failing to provide veterinary care, food, or water to helpless animals. In March, Yellowstone County prosecutors filed four additional charges against Leachman.

In March, Crow Tribe members gathered the surviving horses from the leased tribal lands on which they were located. Those horses were later sold at auction. At that auction, Leachman's son Seth purchased 66 of the horses, for which Leachman himself later paid.

In April, Yellowstone County prosecutors added yet another count of animal cruelty bringing the total number of charges against Leachman to 16, said Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito (per Montana law, each count represents two charges, Twito said). Each count carries maximum penalties of one year in jail and $1,000 in fines.

Leachman has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He was unavailable for comment on the case.

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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