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Wiota man charged with neglecting horses; dead horse found
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Photos of the horses show their malnutrition and neglect. - photo by Lafayette County Sheriffs Department

TOWN OF WIOTA — The Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department seized 12 horses from a pasture on Trotter Road in Wiota on Wednesday as the result of an investigation of animal neglect allegations.

A press release from the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department detailing the situation said that the remains of an additional horse were also found in the field earlier in the month.

The owner of the horses, Sean C. Legault, 55, of rural South Wayne, has been charged with animal neglect and failing to properly dispose of an animal carcass.

Legault was in Lafayette County Circuit Court on Monday for an initial appearance where bail was set at a $1,000 signature bond. Arraignment was scheduled for Monday at 9 a.m.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, citizen reports of suspected neglect were first received in mid-January. The reports indicated that there was a lack of hay and other feeds being made available to the horses, said the press release.

Lafayette County Sheriff Scott Pedley said his department contacted Legault after first receiving the reports and directed him to increase the feed available to the animals.

“It’s been such a hard winter for any animals that are out of doors this year and common sense would tell anyone that those animals need more feed to maintain their health,” said Pedley.

Pedley said the Sheriff’s Department had been monitoring the feeding of the horses, since first making contact with Legault, on an almost daily basis, and continued to urge the owner to make sure that adequate amounts of feed were made available to the horses.

“But this individual just seemed to ignore our efforts,” said Pedley.

Then on Feb. 10 a Lafayette County Sheriff’s deputy discovered the remains of a deceased horse in the pasture, while on one of the many checkup visits to the location.

“That was cause enough to take Legault into custody,” said Pedley. Legault was booked into the Lafayette County Jail on charges relating to his failure to properly dispose of an animal carcass, said the press release. Legault was subsequently released from jail and the monitoring of his feeding practices continued up until a few days before the seizure of the animals.

According to the press release, during visits to the pasture location in the days leading up to Feb. 19, it was determined that the horses still continued to be lacking adequate feed rations and the services of an equine veterinarian were utilized.

The veterinary service determined that the animals were suffering from neglect as of Feb. 19, and a warrant was obtained that same day allowing for the seizure of the animals, according to the news release.

That afternoon 11 of the horses were secured and transported from the pasture on Trotter Road to a farm elsewhere within the county where they are currently being cared for.

The 12th horse was unable to be subdued at that time and efforts to seize the final animal continued until Thursday, when it was also transported to the new location, joining the other horses.

According to Pedley, the horses are being properly fed and cared for under the advice of a veterinarian and that the farmer caring for the animals is well versed in horse care.

Pedley said an examination of each horse and the expertise of a veterinarian will be necessary for the criminal process.

“I’m hoping it won’t go beyond 45 days at the most,” he said.

Until the case is concluded the Sheriff’s Department is wholly responsible for the cost of maintaining the care of the animals. “Luckily people have been coming forward from around the area offering donations of feed and financial assistance for the care of the horses,” said Pedley.

A donation account has been set up through the Lafayette County courthouse that will fund the care of the animals. If donations received exceed the cost of care for the horses, Pedley explained that the funds will be used to care for neglected animals that the county may have to seize in the future. Donations can be mailed to Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department, P.O. Box 148, Darlington, WI 53530.

According to Pedley nothing is set aside in the budget of the sheriff’s department to provide for the cost of maintaining care for seized animals because it is not a regular cost for the department. The last time the department seized livestock was in the 1990s, Pedley said.

“The financial burden associated with the care of these animals will likely be significant and the funds to accomplish this are not included in the operational budget of my office,” said Pedley in the press release. “Some may criticize my decision to seize these horses, however, this matter is a criminal investigation and, as such, it is necessary that this investigation be dealt with thoroughly and these expenses be provided for so that the humane care of the horses in question can (and should) occur.”