Mike A. Wood, 39, was arrested on the charges Friday afternoon and pleaded not guilty at a Monday appearance in Park County Circuit Court in Cody.
Wood reportedly told a Park County Sheriff’s deputy he didn’t have the money to care for his horses, “and that some of them died due to lack of care,” Sgt. Mark Hartman wrote in an affidavit submitted in support of the case.
On Monday, prosecutors said Wood will likely face additional charges relating to a number of dogs and cats that either died or were found in poor health at the Crossfire Trail property. Authorities have seized a total of 10 dead animals (seven horses and three dogs) plus 12 live ones in various conditions (six horses, three other dogs and three cats), prosecutors said.
Deputy Park County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Davis successfully argued at Monday’s hearing for Wood’s bail to be set at $7,500 cash.
“The facts of this case are quite serious, even though they’re only misdemeanors,” Davis said, in part.
Wood — who’s worked in Powell for about five years and lived at the Crossfire Trail property for roughly four — had asked for a lower amount that he could post.
“I do have a regular, steady job that I’d like to keep — not to mention nobody else working and paying household bills,” he said.
Authorities want Wood to provide proof of ownership for the six live horses they seized from his residence on Jan. 9, so they can potentially move forward with finding new owners for the animals. (They’re currently being temporarily put up by a private citizen for $5 per horse per day.) Wood, however, questioned how he can track down the horses’ paperwork from jail.
“I’m kind of stuck,” he told Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters.
“You are kind of stuck to a certain degree,” Waters agreed, but he left bail at $7,500 cash.
If Wood posts that money and is released from jail, he can’t own or possess any animals.
Complicating things is the fact Wood still has other horses at another location.
“I have some on pasture that I’m trying to deal with and get rid of,” he said in court on Monday.
“We’re not exactly sure what’s going on with that,” Davis, the prosecutor, said later in the hearing. “The Sheriff’s Office will monitor that and make sure those animals ... don’t fall under the same circumstances.”
The Sheriff’s Office had received a tip about the dead horses at the Crossfire Trail property on Jan. 7.
Hartman checked out the property that same morning and spotted five dead horses and six live ones in three corrals; two of the corrals had both live and dead horses inside, Hartman wrote in his affidavit.
When the deputy spoke with Wood later that day, “Wood told me that he did not have the resources to properly care for these horses and that some of them had died due to lack of care,” Hartman wrote.
Wood said he’d tried contacting a horse rescue organization and advertised the horses in the paper, but hadn’t had any success, Hartman said.
Authorities got a warrant to search the property and seize the animals on Jan. 9. They discovered two more dead horses in a snow drift at the rear of the property.
“These horses were long dead and had been fed upon by coyotes as well as most likely domestic dogs,” Hartman wrote.
From the various stages of decomposition, Cody veterinarian Mel Fillerup — who accompanied law enforcement for the search — concluded the seven dead horses had died sometime between seven and 30 days earlier.
Wood apparently told the authorities he thought the animals had died of sand colic, but Fillerup analyzed the contents of one of the dead animal’s stomach and found that didn’t appear to be the problem, Hartman wrote.
“They essentially were corralled up and died from what the state’s alleging was a lack of feed,” Davis said Monday.
As for the six living horses, Fillerup categorized one horse as being extremely emaciated, two were very thin or emaciated and the other three were between thin and very thin, charging documents say.
“Dr. Fillerup commented that all the horses searched for food and ate snow during his examination,” Hartman wrote. “Dr. Fillerup concluded that the horses were underweight for their age and that they needed food.”
The veterinarian found the horses’ water troughs didn’t have water, although there was an active water hydrant. There was no salt source on the property, though there were five bales of good quality grass hay, Hartman wrote.
Davis said there’s been “public outrage” about the case, pointing that out as he argued for a $7,500 bond.
Wood’s trial was tentatively set for April 14.