The Yellowstone County Attorney's Office has filed five primary misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and five alternative counts against James Leachman, the owner of approximately 450 horses in Billings, Montana.
The lives of the starving horses are at stake on a ranch east of Billings. The Billings Gazette has quoted veterinarian Jeff Peila as saying that the horses will begin dying in droves within the next two weeks unless help is given.
The property where the horses are located was lost in a foreclosure sale last year, and since that time, the horses have been left to fend for themselves.
On December 29, 2010, veterinarian Peila examined the horses at the request of investigators and said about 350 of the horses hadn't eaten much for a month and are starving to death.
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said the charge being brough in the case could ultimately be part of the largest horse abuse case in Montana history.
On January 15, Peila was joined by county and state officials and returned to the property to deal with the horses in the worst condition. Two mares had to be shot, one in poor bodily condition and the other with a broken lower leg.
"This is just a horrible situation, and we'll try to do whatever we can to help the horses, County Attorney Scott Twito said.
The Animal Rescue Unit has been in contact with the Yellowstone Sheriff's office and has offered financial assistance and placement help in an attempt to save as many of the horses as possible.