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Animals rescued from Beaverhead County property strewn with carcasses recovering at fairgrounds

Animals rescued from horrifying scene in Dillon
Posted at 6:46 PM, Apr 19, 2024

DILLON — The Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Office is calling it one of the worst cases of animal neglect and abuse that they’ve seen. Officers rescued 47 animals who were living off of trash and dirty water amid animal carcasses on a property near Dillon, and now they’re safe and sound at the Beaverhead County Fairgrounds.

"We seized the animals, what we could. There was a lot of dead animals up there. A lot of garbage. Seems like there was a lot of stale breads and stuff from grocery stores, and they’d just throw the bag of bread out there and they’d just eat the plastic and the bread and everything," says Sheriff David Wendt.

Wendt says he's been on the job for 30 years and the case is by far the worst he has investigated in Beaverhead County.

Deputies came across the scene while searching for lost pygmy goats and returned on April 16 with a search warrant.

What they found was a scene like something out of a horror movie, including dead goats scattered throughout the property and in a trailer filled with feral cats, a rotting dog in a car, chickens feeding off dead goats, and a goose that had only its bottom beak—the top appeared to be broken off.

"One neighbor said there was probably over 40 goats last year and we only have 17, so—like I said, I was on a ranch all my life and it really upsets me. But now they’re—this is probably the first time these guys have ever been in a building," says Wendt as he gestures to the goats, alpaca, and llama that are being housed at the fairgrounds.

Charging documents accuse both Constance and Robert Riley of felony animal cruelty and illegally dumping dead animals and other litter on their property. They appeared in court on Thursday, April 18. Prosecutors say additional charges may be filed when the case heads to District Court in May.

"I feel better that they’re here now. I mean, they’re getting food and water, vet, and these guys’ll get sheared here pretty soon," Wendt says of the llama and alpaca. They appear to be fluffy, but a vet says they are skin and bone underneath the wool.

Sheriff Wendt says the community has been generous with donations of food, hay, and vet services for the animals and soon they will be ready for adoption.

"Now it’s just, we kinda wait for a little bit for the courts to take their time and get this stuff done," says Wendt.