An East Bethel rancher charged with 35 counts of animal cruelty has asked that his case be dismissed because the condition of his allegedly malnourished horses "changed substantially" after authorities seized them from his ranch.
Some of those horses gained 200 pounds within months of being seized as University of Minnesota veterinarians and rescue workers nursed them back to health, authorities say. But in documents filed in Anoka County court, Lowell Friday, 72, claims such care deprived him of the opportunity to have his own veterinarian examine the 17 animals that were seized in August and November of 2011. Friday, who was convicted of misdemeanor animal cruelty in 2009, was charged with 35 misdemeanors in January.
In a matter separate from the criminal case, the East Bethel City Council recently denied Friday's request for a land permit for his horses. Friday's property spills into Ham Lake, where similar permits are not required. Friday's barns, water and feed are on the East Bethel side, but he could legally move the horses to Ham Lake, where there are few amenities for them.
When asked if he expected Friday to appeal the City Council's decision, East Bethel Administrator Jack Davis replied on Tuesday, "This could become a civil matter. He could sue the city."
Friday could not be reached, and his attorney, Robert Richman, declined to comment, deferring to the contested motions he filed in court. Those documents also claim that searches and seizures on Friday's ranch last year were unconstitutional because they lacked proper warrants.
"Our investigation determined that there was more than enough evidence to take the action we took," said Humane Society investigator Keith Streff, who was assisted by the Anoka County Sheriff's Office in removing the horses from Friday's ranch. Streff said the authorities proceeded properly.
"The veterinary records and health summaries of the animals" by University of Minnesota veterinarians "will support our actions," Streff said.
The horses were emaciated and infested with lice and parasites, according to court documents. Their water was caked with algae, the documents said.
Crystal, a year-old paint filly, was so weak when she was seized in November that her hindquarters collapsed when authorities tried to load her into a trailer. Nearly euthanized that day, Crystal was placed under the care of the university veterinarians and then the nonprofit Minnesota Hooved Rescue Animal Rescue Foundation. She gained more than 200 pounds in two months and now has a permanent home in St. Francis.
Friday's next court hearing is scheduled for July 6.
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419