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Minnesota man pleads guilty to horse deaths

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This horse was removed from a rural Chatfield, Minn., property las part of a Fillmore County animal neglect investigation. (Contributed photo)
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CHATFIELD, Minn. — A Chatfield man will avoid felony charges in a case of animal neglect and cruelty.

Jeremiah Smaglik, 42, entered written guilty pleas Monday, Sept. 9, in Fillmore County District Court to one count each of gross misdemeanor animal torture and gross misdemeanor animal cruelty. As part of the plea, felony counts of animal torture and of animal cruelty and four other misdemeanor charges were dismissed.

Under the plea, prosecutors would ask Smaglik serve 20 days in jail — avoiding the up to four years in prison that the felony charges would potentially carry. In the written plea, Smaglik notes he could ask the court for less jail time.

On Tuesday, District Court Judge Matthew J. Opat set a sentencing hearing for Oct. 21.

That hearing falls almost a year after the Fillmore County Sheriff’s office responded to a complaint that at least four horses were being kept in a small pen with no roof or shelter at Smaglik’s rural Chatfield property.

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A lieutenant from the sheriff’s office who responded to the call found four horses in the pen that were thin. One had a blanket on and was limping, according to the officer’s report. Smaglik allegedly told the officer the horses were rescues and were thin from previous poor treatment.

In March, sheriff’s officers responding to another complaint walked around the property where they found eight horses that were emaciated with their ribs and spines showing and two dead horses on the lawn.

Smaglik then agreed to turn over the horses to the Minnesota Animal Humane Society, court documents show. The horses were taken to Anoka Equine Veterinary Services. All the horses had lice, infections, worms and other parasites, staff there reported to investigators. One horse, estimated about 20 years old, was euthanized there. A necropsy performed at the Chatfield Veterinary Clinic found the horses died due to malnutrition and/or starvation.

Seven horses have new homes, said Barbara Colombo, president of the Minnesota Horse Welfare Coalition.

Colombo was on site when the horses were removed from the property.

“They were kept in horrible, inhumane conditions,” she said. “It was shameful.”

She said for horses to die of starvation requires severe, long-term neglect.

She said the thorough investigation documenting conditions will help raise public awareness of horse neglect and the need to ensure people who adopt horses have the financial means and knowledge to care for the animals.

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Smaglik purchased five of the horses from Ryon’s Rescue in Cannon Falls between July and September last year, according to investigators. Officials at Ryon’s told investigators that the five horses were healthy and of good weight at the time of sale.

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