- Williams County State's Attorney Nicole Foster
- United States of America
Deputies uncover dead, neglected animals
By LeAnn Eckroth, Senior Staff Writer
Animal carcasses littered the ground.
Horses were so hungry they were eating their own feces.
Dogs were chained up without food or water.
Authorities discovered the grisly scene this week in rural Grenora and arrested a woman for mistreating animals.
Kim Lester, 41, was released on 10 percent cash to apply toward $2,000 bond Friday on two counts of maltreatment of animals, both Class A misdemeanors.
Lester appeared Friday with her attorney Shane Peterson before Northwest District Judge Gerald Rustad on allegations of mistreatment of numerous horses, livestock and dogs on a farmstead about six miles southwest of Grenora.
According to a report released by the Williams County Sheriff's Office, many of the 84 horses, 50 dogs and 30 birds - turkeys and chickens - were confined to a very small space on the 330 acres of property, and had not received food or water for several days.
Rustad ordered Lester to remove all animals from her property within five days, and to notify law enforcement what is being done with the animals and where they are being placed. She must make arrangements for the animals' proper care.
According Williams County Deputy Verlan Kvande, who headed the investigation, 45 livestock, including horses and cows, were penned into a 50-by-60-foot area, and numerous dogs were staked out throughout the property, chained up without food or water or were confined in small animal carriers in other buildings on the farmstead. The other 40 livestock animals were found in an overgrazed pasture.
"There was one 8-by-10-foot shed with the doors and windows closed that had no ventilation," Kvande said. "It had half a dozen chickens and eight dogs in pet carrier cages. There was a horrendous smell of defecation, urination and chickens. There was no food or water for the dogs. There was some water for the chickens, but it was really moldy .... The smell was overpowering."
After receiving numerous reports about conditions of the farmstead from concerned citizens, authorities investigated and found enough probable cause to obtain a search warrant for the farm site.
"There were complaints of dead animals in the pasture and mistreatment of animals," said Kvande.
Executing the search warrant on Thursday, Williams County Sheriff deputies and North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents who investigated the scene reported finding eight horse carcasses and three dog carcasses in a pasture on the property.
Several animals were found to be in a small pen and unable to move around, or placed in small carriers in three structures on the property.
"A veterinarian who accompanied authorities in the investigation confirmed that there was evidence of neglect and malnourishment of the animals, and it was an extended ongoing pattern," said Lt. Earl Innis of the Williams County Sheriff's Office.
Animals also showed signs of possible staff infection, ringworm and sores, said the veterinarian.
Williams County State's Attorney Nicole Foster, who is prosecuting the case, described the farmstead and conditions of the animals a public health hazard.
"The horses were so hungry, they were eating their own feces," said Deputy Verlan Kvande, who headed the probe. "They had automated watering systems, but they had not been turned on."
During the investigation of the property, deputies and law officers tended to the animals, said Innis. They remained on the scene for over three hours.
Lester was also ordered not to board or possess animals while the court case continues, and the court order also includes a search clause of Lester's property that allows authorities to check for other animals.
"To my knowledge, she has made contacts with humane societies around the state to find shelter for the animals," Kvande said.
If convicted, Lester could face a maximum sentence of two years in prison and $4,000 in fines.
RE: Animal Abuser Kim Lester
As a native North Dakotan and avid animal rescuer, how can you allow someone to neglect over 150 animals to the point of death and conclude the the appropriate punishment will be no more than 2 years in prison and a whopping $4,000.00? Have you read the article? The article states she was arrested for "mistreating" animals. In what dictionary are you looking where the actions of denying animals food, water and basic air to breathe until they die a slow, agonizing death equates the word "mistreatment?". If I put my dog in a box with a few holes and no food and water, it's not mistreatment, it's attempted murder. These animals are life given to us by God. How can you put a value on their lives? Who is standing up and speaking on their behalf when they cannot? I hardly think they would have chosen to live the way they did.
I am aware that there are some shelters stepping in to help these poor animals, however how is it possible that Ms. Lester can sell these horses for her current rate of $200? She does not deserve to benefit at all in the relocation of these animals!
I am pleading and begging you along with the rest of the people who have signed this petition to increase the sentencing of Ms. Lester, if convicted. As the state of North Dakota, we cannot allow this to go on without harsh punishment. If convicted, she deserves no less than 5-7 years and a minimum fine of $100,000 and that is being kind.