An East Bethel ranch owner, some of whose horses were found to be starved, infested with parasites and living in hazardous conditions, had 35 charges of animal cruelty against him reduced from gross misdemeanors to misdemeanors on Thursday in Anoka County court.
Lowell Friday, 72, who runs a horse-boarding business and who had 17 of his horses seized by authorities last year, could not be charged with gross misdemeanors because the penalties for the stiffer charges do not fit the laws he is accused of violating, his attorney, Robert Richman, explained after a brief hearing.
In 2009, Friday pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of mistreating animals but is not on probation, Richman said. The attorney said Friday plans to contest the current 35 misdemeanor charges.
The amendment to the charges was agreed upon by prosecutor Jennifer Nodes and Richman before Thursday's hearing. Friday declined to comment.
The maximum penalty for conviction of each misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The maximum penalty for each gross misdemeanor would have been a year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.
A pretrial hearing has been scheduled for April 26.
Drew Fitzpatrick, who runs a nonprofit horse-rescue operation in Zimmerman, Minn., has overseen the rehabilitation of several of Friday's seized horses after they were treated by University of Minnesota veterinarians. After learning about the hearing, which she did not attend, Fitzpatrick said: "Is he still charged with 35 counts? Good!"
Of the 17 seized horses, one had to be euthanized, but others are recovering nicely, she said. A Paint filly named Crystal, who needed a steroid injection to get the strength to load into the trailer at Friday's property, has gained 200 pounds and has a new home in St. Francis, Fitzpatrick said.
As many as seven of the seized horses may compete later this year in a trainers' challenge in St. Paul, Fitzpatrick said.
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419