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Lincoln Co. man faces animal cruelty charge

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Hagadone News Network | December 21, 2023 7:00 AM

A Lincoln County resident is facing charges of animal cruelty and allowing his dogs to run at large after a number of area residents alerted law enforcement.

Steven Joseph Davis, 42, was charged with cruelty to animals, failure to provide food and water, following an investigation by Lincoln County Sheriff Officer Andrew Smith. He was also cited for allowing his dogs to run at large.

According to a Notice to Appear, Davis is scheduled to appear in Lincoln County Justice Court on Monday, Dec. 18, before 5 p.m.

In the probable cause statement alleging the offense against Davis, Smith reported meeting with Davis at his property at about 10:30 a.m. Nov. 19, following a welfare check request on multiple livestock animals, including cows, horses, goats and pigs. The original complaint stated that the cows and horses didn’t have access to food and water, four goats were being kept in a horse trailer, one dead goat was in a horse trailer and there were four dead pigs in their pen. The person making the complaint also said all of the animals were emaciated and dying.

Smith wrote, “When I arrived I observed five cows in two pens. The cows all had access to food and water. Two of the cows were a bit underweight. These same two cows were nursing mothers to the other three cows. The other three cows appeared to be healthy.

“The four goats kept in the horse trailer are new goats to the property being quarantined until it’s determined that they do not have any diseases that can be spread to existing goats and will be introduced to the other goats within a couple of days. The deceased goat died because it got caught in the fence while trying to jump it and will be buried soon,” Smith wrote.

Smith wrote that the four pigs in their pen were not dead, were up walking around and had access to food and water.

“I explained the concerns to Steven and told him I would be requiring a visit from a large animal veterinarian to assess each animal and create a plan to bring them back to a healthy weight. Steven understood,” Smith wrote in his report.

When Smith told Davis he would need to come by on unannounced days and times to check on the progress with the animals, Davis said that was not an issue and verbally gave the officer permission to come on his property at any time that, "I needed to with or without him being home at the time."

Two days later, on Nov. 21, Smith met with Dr. Chad Burt, a veterinarian in Bonners Ferry, Idaho at the Davis property. According to Smith, Dr. Burt gave Davis some information on how to put healthy weight back on the animals. 

Smith said he told Davis he needed to follow the recommendations and if he failed to do so, the animals could be impounded and he could be cited. According to Smith, Davis indicated he understood.

On Nov. 26, Officer Smith returned to the Davis property for an animal check and reported that a majority of the animals didn’t have access to water, according to his report. 

“I contacted Steven and told him this was not acceptable and that he needed to make sure there is water accessible to all of the animals at all times. Steven said he promises that this won’t happen again,” Smith wrote in his report.

Smith reported that he returned to the Davis residence the next day, on Nov. 27, and the animals had access to water and food. 

But on Dec. 2, Officer Smith returned to the property for another animal check. During his drive, Smith learned from dispatch that they received a call about some of the pigs on the property being attacked by the dogs that also live on the property. 

“On my arrival, I observed two of the four pigs with injuries to their ears and face. The pen appeared to be forced open. I separated the dogs from the pigs and contacted Steven, who was not at home at the time,” Smith wrote. “While waiting for Steven to arrive, I walked the property and checked on the cows, goats, horses, pigs and a chicken. All of the water to all of these animals was frozen over. I broke the surface ice of all of the troughs to allow the animals access to the water.”

Smith also reported that none of the animals appeared to have any accessible food and he didn’t see remnants of food, either.

Smith further wrote that, “One of the horses was biting at an empty plastic pail, possibly because there was food in it at one point. Two other pigs were eating chicken feed out of a bucket outside of the pen. The chicken was pecking at the frozen water in a bowl in the coop.

“When Steven arrived I explained to him that it appeared that he was not following the direction of the veterinarian pertaining to having food and water accessible to the animals. The veterinarian also told Steven to blanket the horses as it would help them maintain body heat which would in turn allow weight to more easily be put on. The two horses were not blanketed,” Smith wrote.

Officer Smith then told Davis he would be cited for animal cruelty and because he failed to follow the arrangement for providing for the animals, that they would either need to be relocated by him somewhere safe where they would be properly cared for, surrendered to the county or seized by the county.

In Smith’s report, he also wrote, “While discussing all of this with Steven, he admitted that he may have gotten in over his head with the amount of animals that he had on the property. Between building a new house, not living full-time on the property and not having help around the property with the animals, he agreed that it may have been more than he can handle.”

Smith also cited Davis that day, Dec. 2, for allegedly allowing his dogs to run at large and barking in a manner that disturbs the peace.

According to Smith, on Dec. 3, Davis worked out a plan to have all the animals relocated to Idaho where they would be properly cared for. On Dec. 4, Smith went to the property and confirmed that all of the livestock had been removed from the property and relocated.

Smith concluded his report by writing, “I do not feel that this was intentional neglect, I believe Steven just wasn’t fully aware of how much attention was required to care for so many animals.”

According to Montana law, a first conviction for animal cruelty may result in a $1,000 fine and a maximum one-year term in the county jail.

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