Cost of seized Helena Valley horses grows to $316,221, sheriff says

Phil Drake

The cost of caring for nearly 60 horses seized in June from a Quarter Horse breeding operation in Lewis and Clark County has now hit $316,221, and will climb even higher until the defendants are sentenced in June and the judge determines the fate of the animals, the sheriff said Thursday.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said that tally consists of $137,736 in salaries and $178,485 in operating costs. He told members of Hometown Helena, a grassroots civics group, on Thursday that there is an “outpouring” of public interest for the horses.

Robert Erickson, the operation’s owner, was found guilty Wednesday in Lewis and Clark County District Court of felony aggravated animal cruelty. He was charged along with his sons, Alan and Clayton.

Alan Erickson took a deal in exchange for his guilty plea. If the agreement is accepted by presiding Judge Kathy Seeley, Alan and Robert Erickson are scheduled to be sentenced June 22.

Clayton Erickson entered into a deferred prosecution agreement filed April 8. As long as he does not violate the terms of the agreement, the animal cruelty charge will be dismissed in five years.

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