Montana Man Faces Cruelty Charges

A Montana rancher faces multiple animal cruelty charges in connection with the alleged neglect of 450 horses.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said the horses are 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.

"The horses' owner, James H. Leachman, basically abandoned the animals after losing his ranch in a sheriff's sale," Twito said.

On Dec. 30, Jeff Peila, DVM, evaluated the horses at the request of the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Department. At that time, the horses' condition was beginning to deteriorate, Peila said.

"I went back three weeks later and they were starting to get in poor shape," Peila said.

On Jan. 21 Leachman was charged with five counts negligently failing to provide veterinary care, food, or water to helpless animals. The charges are connected to five animals discovered dead on the property, Twito said. Each count carries maximum penalties of one year in jail and $1,000 in fines.

Twito said both the investigation and prosecution connected with the case are ongoing.

Leachman was unavailable for comment.

A volunteer effort to provide the horses with necessary resources is under way, Twito said.

Anyone with supplies, equipment, or funds to contribute for the horses' care is asked to call the Northern International Livestock Exhibition Billings office at 406/256-2495.

Leachman is scheduled to appear in court on the charges on Jan. 28.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.

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