More than $171K spent on seized Helena Valley horses so far

Phil Drake

The price tag for Lewis and Clark County to keep nearly 60 horses confiscated June 1 from a breeding operation has hit $171,481, Sheriff Leo Dutton said Tuesday, adding that he believes the number will exceed $250,000 by the time the issue is expected to be resolved in April.

The horses have been under the county’s care since the sheriff’s office, a U.S. Forest Service ranger and a Department of Livestock employee raided an operation in the Helena Valley run by Robert Erickson and sons Alan and Clayton Erickson.

They have pleaded not guilty to charges of felony aggravated abuse of animals and await an April 25 jury trial. If convicted, each defendant faces a possibility of two years imprisonment and fines totaling $2,500. They were released on their own recognizance. Attorneys for the Ericksons were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Of the 59 horses, 25 are now in foster care and 34 are under the sheriff’s care, officials said. 

Authorities originally removed 60 horses, but one of the horses, a mare, was destroyed, Dutton said, adding he was unable to provide details. He said all parties involved were contacted and a necropsy is still being done.

According to court documents,

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