Members of the public are outraged after a man found guilty of three counts of animal neglect and four counts of animal abuse was given, what they consider, a slap on the wrist.
According to the State Veterinarian’s report, 49-year-old Corey Fleck had a pile of at least 24 dead cattle on land in Flasher. The report said it’s very possible even more carcasses were underneath what was visible from the pit they were in. In the affidavit, a Morton County Sheriff’s Deputy counted 62 dead cattle between the pit, a barn and two loafing sheds on the property.
Of the remaining cows that were alive on the property, at least 80 percent appeared to be clinically malnourished.
Fleck was ultimately sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation.
North Dakota State Veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller said animal abuse and neglect is a topic that brings many frustrated calls into her office.
She wrote the veterinarian report in the Fleck case.
“If they think there may be some illnesses or deaths that need to be looked at, then they will ask to have a veterinarian involved right away,” Dr. Keller explained.
She was unable to comment on the case, or say if this is a typical sentence because the verdict was in the hands of the Morton County State’s Attorney’s Office.
KX News tried to reach the Attorney on the case for weeks. He did not return our calls or emails.
“Reports and allegations are not uncommon, but you’re asking about a very specific case, and if you read the report, I would say that is a rare situation,” Dr. Keller shared.
She said livestock abuse is pretty uncommon in North Dakota. Neglect is more often what her office sees.
“Intentionally they’re not feeding them properly, or they’re not aware of the lack of nutrients in the feed, or it’s just poor management. Or many times there may be some real need for the person that is caring for the animals to be cared for also,” she explained.
Dr. Keller said the majority of cases she is called to result in simply making a plan for the owner to improve how the animals are taken care of, and then, her office and law enforcement will check back in. Prosecution rarely happens.
As you can see, these cases are not really trending in any direction, the number fluctuates.
The State Veterinarian’s office gets involved when having to seize the animals is a possibility.
In 2013, state lawmakers adopted Statute 36.21.2. It defines abuse, neglect, cruelty and abandonment, and lays out penalties for each.
“It was tough to figure out, you know, how are we going to handle this. I think the consistency is what it’s brought to our state,” Dr. Keller added.
She said ultimately, it’s up to local courts and a judge to make the final call, as it was on the Flasher farm. But she said a lower number of prosecutions doesn’t mean the state doesn’t take animal safety seriously.
“I think that the biggest frustration that we still hear is that I think the public would like to see more done, but I also don’t think that the public realizes the background of some of the cases. So when people call, we’re more than happy to try to explain this process,” Dr. Keller concluded.
As Dr. Keller mentioned, a large portion of neglect reports are made, because owners don’t know how to properly care for their animals.
Her office is working to first educate animal owners.
As for Fleck’s cattle, a source said they’ve since been auctioned off to new owners.
Click here to see the North Dakota animal abuse and neglect statute.