BILLINGS — For the first time in years, all was quiet Tuesday on the 35-acre property at 720 Bender Road south of Billings. You couldn't hear any dogs barking because none remained after an animal control raid found 14 dead and confiscated at least 19 more last week.
But neighbors still have many questions, including why 35-year-old Michael Bigelow was the only person arrested.
"Carrie is just as much a part of that as anything," said Jennifer Hart, a neighbor for the last 13 years.
Carrie Bigelow, Michael’s mother, owns the property at 720 Bender Road. In court documents filed Monday, Bigelow said her former husband, Marvin Dunster, had operated a livestock guardian dog kennel on the land until he died in December 2019, when she then took it over.
Hart says the dogs had been issue for years under Marvin's guidance.
"Carrie knew what her husband had been doing," she said."When he passed, it was relayed to us that she said it would get better. It didn’t get better."
Other neighbors Q2 spoke to confirmed Hart’s account, but said they didn’t want to go on camera because of threats Dunster and the family had made to them.
"People were scared of Marvin and they’re scared of Mr. Bigelow, the one in jail right now," Hart said.
Hart characterizes the Bigelows as irresponsible animal owners, and the results of last week’s raid didn’t surprise her, but she also faults Yellowstone County for not acting sooner.
"The county has been called for 20 years," she said. "It’s been 20 years of this battle, and it’s never been taken seriously."
"We’ve seen this before," added Sarah Shipman. "It takes months and months of calls to the county to get things done."
Shipman is a board member with One Horse At A Time, a Montana-based horse rescue group. There are still five horses on the Bigelows' property. A consulting vet during the raid gave each a body conditioning score of one.
"A body score one is a skeleton almost," Shipman said.
In Shipman’s experience, officials often choose to keep horses on a property because they don’t have a safe facility to take them to.
"We’ve found that if someone steps up and helps, the county takes them up on that," she said.
Shipman reached out to Yellowstone County Tuesday offering to take the horses. Both she and Hart want action to be taken soon.
"This has been 13 years of multiple, multiple, multiple people calling, saying there’s a problem," Hart said. "There are horses starving, dogs starving."
"This is Carrie and (Michael's) responsibility. But since they failed in that responsibility and those animals are suffering like they are, that's when the County has to step in and make it stop. And it hasn't stopped."
Q2 News reached out to Yellowstone County but had not heard back as of publishing. Q2 was unable to reach Carrie Bigelow for comment.
Read the charging document below: