Thirty-eight horses on their way to a slaughterhouse in Shelby got a new lease on life Wednesday at an auction near Vaughn.
The horses were seized from an abusive owner in Chouteau County in July. The horses, along with 15 goats and 14 chickens, were seized from Paula Northerner. Chouteau County Attorney Stephen Gannon charged and convicted Northerner on three counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty.
“We hope to recover our costs with the sale,” Gannon told MTN News, “and get these animals to good homes at the same time. This has been an ongoing concern for citizens in the area.”
When the Chouteau County Sheriff’s Office seized her livestock, they were found in “poor condition” and without adequate “feed, water, and space,” according to court documents. One of the horses was found suffering from severe facial paralysis.
“[Northerner] had to turn over possession of all of her livestock,” Chouteau County Deputy Matt Guderjahn told MTN News. “She is not going to care for, possess, [or] transport livestock for the next five years.”
If a new owner didn’t come forward to claim the animals, they would have been transported to the Bar S Slaughterhouse Feed Lot in Shelby, which is owned by Bouvry Exports, a Candian horse slaughter company. It was a reality that Danyeah Logan-Young, president and founder of Hooves of Promise Equine Rescue, based in Arlee, just couldn’t stomach.
Weeks before the auction, she and other leaders of horse rescue groups in the region began reaching out to private donors who could pony up the money to save the horses. Because of the pandemic, many horse rescue groups in Montana have been strapped for cash.
“It’s been very hard,” she said. “Donations have trickled down to just a few dollars a month.”
But on Wednesday, the horses lucked out.
“It went great,” said Michelle Donaldson, president of Equis Save Foundation, another group that worked to save the horses. Private buyers showed up in full force, and all the horses were saved from the slaughterhouse, Donaldson said.
For Corrie Chaffin and her daughters, it meant a new addition to the family — a white mare, that her daughters have already named Pegasus. In its emaciated state, the horse will need to gain a few hundred pounds, but Chaffin has a special diet and a trip to the vet already planned.
“We weren’t really planning on getting one, but no one was bidding, so we were worried she’d go to a kill buyer,” she said. “She’s been getting loved on for hours now.”