Six horses starve to death
By NANCY KIMBALLThe Daily Inter Lake
Woman faces felony charges of animal cruelty
A Columbia Falls woman was arrested Thursday in connection with the starvation deaths of at least six horses and severe malnourishment of two others.
A ninth horse is missing.
Tina Pickton, also known as Tina Houston, 32, is being held in the Flathead County Detention Center on $20,000 bail on felony charges of aggravated animal cruelty.
The horses were found Tuesday in a pasture off Bayou Road near the Presentine Bar fishing access.
A man who identified himself as a friend of the landowner from whom Pickton leased the pasture space saw the horses and called the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office. He reported one horse as dead and the rest as malnourished, Undersheriff Pete Wingert said.
When deputies arrived that day, the man told them he had found two more dead plus two live horses.
The sheriff’s office called brand inspector Tom Harmon, who met deputies at the pasture on Thursday. Harmon and a fellow brand inspector found six dead horses — a 5-year-old black mare, 2-year-old sorrel, yearling Clydesdale stud, 21-year-old sorrel gelding, and two colts born this year, a bay and a sorrel.
After talking with the landowner to learn who had leased the pasture, then talking with Pickton, they determine there was another horse missing.
Wingert said the two surviving horses were taken to LaSalle Equine Clinic for care.
Pickton insisted she had been feeding the horses, according to the investigation report.
However, the brand inspector told the Sheriff’s Office, “without question, the cause of death was starvation.”
Other factors at the pasture indicated the horses had not been fed or watered in some time. Most of the willow branches at the area had been eaten off by the horses, the report stated, and the ground at the base of the trees had been pawed as if the animals were looking for food.
Wingert said no tracks were found around the pasture to indicate hay had been brought. The only water source in the fenced pasture was a pond area that appeared to have dried up, he said, and there were no tracks in the area to indicate that someone had been there to break the ice.
A feeder and water trough were located in the pasture, he said, but they were fenced off and did not appear to have been used in a long time.
Several neighbors who were interviewed by deputies said they had seen nobody there in a long time to feed or water the horses.
Pickton is being held in lieu of bond. She is scheduled to appear March 1 in District Court.
Reporter Nancy Kimball may be reached at 758-4483 or by e-mail at [email protected]