The Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office is in charge of animal abuse cases, but it isn't set up to handle horses.
The Yellowstone County Attorney's Office filed five primary misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and five alternative counts against James H. Leachman of Billings, MT.
But the legal action may have come too late to save many of the estimated 450 horses starving to death on a ranch east of Billings.
Two horses were humanely shot by a county sheriff's lieutenant. Unless the surviving horses are fed, Shepherd veterinarian Jeff Peila says the horses will start dying in droves within the next two weeks. It isn't clear who will feed the horses or if they can be adopted.
Leachman, who bred cattle in Montana for nearly four decades and turned to horses when his cattle empire collapsed, faces a total maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
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