Monday, November 18, 2013

UPDATED: Weierke-Feist and Michael Feist: Owners of Dead & Starving Horses at Otter Creek Ranch


On March fifth, 2015, long-time Wisconsin horse abuser Michael Feist was finally convicted of 34 counts of neglect/mistreatment. Four of those counts were felonies. The pictures of dead and starving horses shown during the trial were disgusting and heartbreaking. You can read more about the conviction here.

Many of you readers did a lot to make this happen. After so many years and so many different farms, you finally got the authorities to listen.


UPDATE: Sentencing in December 2015
Unfortunately, Michael Feist will only serve ONE YEAR in jail for all the suffering he inflicted... AND he gets to keep most of his horses. Yes, that's right, despite being convicted for tying up healthy young horses until they starved to death in their own filth, he gets to keep owning equines. He has 80 horses, and he gets to keep 50 of them. Not happy with that sentence? Contact the judge and tell her that next time, you expect her to treat severe animal abuse like a real crime.

Hon. Judge Molly E GaleWyrick
1005 West Main St

Suite 600
Balsam Lake, WI 54810
 715-485-9293

What follows is a re-cap of this case.


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http://www.kare11.com/news/article/1046806/396/Western-Wis-man-charged-with-abusing-horses


This is Brenda Weierke-Feist and Michael Feist. They were both investigated for neglect by Polk County for the horrible condition of many of their horses, sheep, goats and other animals on their farm at Otter Creek Ranch, 2055 State Hwy 46 N Milltown WI (south of Luck, WI). 

Upon inspection, at least 15 horses at Otter Creek Ranch scored a one on the Henneke scale, the absolute thinnest a horse can be before death. None of the horses on the ranch scored higher than a 3 (5 is considered normal). The Feist's barn was stuffed with manure. Sheep and other animals were living in filth. Feed troughs and water buckets everywhere were empty.



In November 2013, Michael Feist was charged with 34 counts of animal mistreatment/neglect. Despite this, and despite public outcry, he and his wife were allowed to keep all of their animals. Protests outside the ranch by dedicated volunteers unfortunately did not work.

Peaceful protesters gather 













In December of 2013, autopsy reports from four horses found dead at Otter Creek were released. They reveal that the horses died from malnutrition and parasite infestation. At least two of the horses had almost zero body fat, meaning that they had been starved for a long time. You can read more here.

In January of 2013, Michael Feist was arrested for threatening a deputy with a sledgehammer. The deputy was visiting Feist's farm for a court-ordered inspection of his horses. You can read more here.

Pictured throughout this post are a few of the Feist's 80-100+ horses. At least four horses were found dead on their land, and many others starving... and still being ridden. Before they shut down their Facebook page, they actually proudly posted pictures of starving horses being ridden and led. (Kids' faces are blacked out.) 


Some have said that we should pity and help the Feists. However, it's clear that these people are habitual horse hoarders, and they have been neglecting animals for years.

As far back as 2012, concerned rescuers were trying to work with the Feists to save some of the horses in the worst conditions. This photo on the right shows the horrible slipper-feet of one horse they attempted to help.

In 2011, the Feists were living in New Richmond. They were foreclosed on, and the county eventually sold the farm to Pat McNamara. McNamara has come forward to describe the horrific conditions he found there. He says it took a year and a half to clean up the devastation left behind:

“[This] barn…there was probably four feet of manure in here,” McNamara said. “And no water, no lights, no nothing. He should never be allowed to have animals again." McNamara also described starving animals belonging to the Feists. You can view his personal testimony on a news report and interview done by CBS-- just click the picture below.


http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2013/11/15/polk-co-farm-owners-accused-of-horse-neglect/


Before the Feists left their New Richmond farm, St. Croix County authorities had investigated reports of neglect at their farm... but never pressed charges.

The Feists moved to Milltown, WI. A neighbor of the Feists, Chris Nelson, went on television to describe the conditions at Otter Creek:

"All the horses' ribs are sticking out... their hip bones, back bones, their withers... they're just skin and bones." Nelson had gone to Otter Creek to donate hay.



http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2013/11/14/wis-ranch-under-investigation-after-horses-found-dead/

Although we don't have a ton of photos except those Otter Creek themselves posted to Facebook, many eyewitnesses besides Nelson who have also been to the ranch reported that dozens of horses in trouble.







This blog, the Facebook page Standing Together for the Horses at Otter Creek Ranch, and many dedicated volunteers worked together to draw media attention to this case, and encourage Wisconsin citizens to write to authorities to stop the abuse. Many offered to donate hay, give the horses new homes, trailer horses to those new homes, or contribute money for their care. Despite this, authorities allowed the Feists to keep their animals as they investigated.

These are a few of the articles and videos that were published in the media:

According to The Ledger, a newspaper local to Otter Creek Ranch, "The Polk County Sheriff's Department has been beleaguered with calls from animal advocates..."

Wis. Ranch Under Investigation After Horses Found Dead
Polk County Authorities Investigating Horse Ranch Owner
Polk Co Farm Owners Accused of Horse Neglect




Now I'd like to take a moment and address the "pity factor" in this case.

There are a good number of folks attempting to defend the Feists. They're saying, "Oh, don't blame them, help them! They were just having problems! Stop being mean! The horses weren't so bad!"

To these people I say:

  • The Feists have been starving horses for years. Their history shows their "good intentions" are lies.
  • If you don't believe the horses are "that bad," you clearly haven't seen the pictures, listened to the eyewitness accounts, or visited the farm.
  • The fact that the Feists moved from one farm only to continue neglecting horses at their next farm shows they won't change.
  • There's no excuse for starving horses. If you can't feed them, you can get help from hay banks and horse rescues, or sell your horses, or give them away, or euthanize them-- you don't let them suffer!
  • Whatever "bad luck" or "hard times" someone might experience does not excuse their allowing animals to suffer!
I've also heard the excuse made that the Feists couldn't find good hay, or couldn't find hay at all. Well, that's simply bullshit. Certainly, we all know hay has been more expensive in the past couple of years... but it's absolutely still out there if you're willing to pay. If you aren't, you simply downsize your herd-- you don't keep 100 horses and not feed them, as the Feists did!

In addition, I've heard another (as yet unconfirmed) explanation for why the Feists haven't been able to get hay: they've written so many bad checks to hay dealers that no one will sell to them. This seems entirely believable, because the criminal records of the Feists are very, very long and contain dozens of cases showing that they failed to pay thousands of dollars in debts over the last decade. You can search for the criminal records of Brenda Weierke / Brenda Feist, and Michael Feist yourself by entering their names at the free-to-the-public Wisconsin Circuit Court Access-- or you can simply click on the pictures below to see a snapshot of the first pages of those records:

Brenda Weierke's case file, page 1: click to enlarge


Michael Fiest's case file, page 1: click to enlarge

More pictures from Otter Creek's own Facebook page (they seemed proud of these pictures):




 
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I would like to ad that Wisconsin is one of the worst states in America when it comes to protecting animals. Even Mississippi, the poorest state in our nation, is ranked more highly when it comes to anti-animal abuse laws and the enforcement of those laws. It is only thanks to readers like YOU that some authorities here have been convinced to act in cases of severe neglect (examples below). If you would like to start changing this, please support the Wind Chill bill, which would strengthen the definitions of animal abuse/neglect and increase penalties for those who harm the innocent, voiceless creatures in their care.
  • Barb Thiry killed horses and other animals for decades. She left behind literally an entire farm full of animal corpses. Eventually, she was charged for what was really probably the some of the least horrible neglect she's perpetrated in her life. And she was charged because we made a fuss. We called, wrote, emailed, we got the media out there, we walked up to Waupaca cops on the street, and some even protested across the road from where the horses were kept.
  • In the horrific Pleasant Prairie/Kenosha County case, the cops took years to act, despite frequent calls from neighbors about the 30 suffering horses. It took media coverage, a constant bombardment of complaints from people across the state (and nation!), and finally, people showing up to the abuser's property with horse trailers before the cops intervened.
  • And remember Mary Loeffelholz of Belleville, WI? Over a decade of neglect reports by neighbors did nothing, but finally media coverage and public pressure at least got the cops to make her surrender most of her horses. (Although she still has horses and has never faced any charges.)

37 comments:

  1. These People Need to be Punished!!!!! Totally Abuse!!!

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  2. Just an idea...Obviously they are doing this as a business enterprise. Contact State of Wisconsin or the county and see if they are set up to do business, if they have been paying sales taxes, have insurance, a license,or whatever else might be required. Might be a way to close them down.
    It's one thing to have personal horses and not take care of them, but having horses you are making money off of and not taking care of them. well.. that's truly disgusting.

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  3. May want to add the Milltown Township contact since it is out of Village limits and the Township would have more say then the Village of Milltown. http://www.milltowntownship.com/

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  4. I'm more sick to my stomach tonight then I have been all week, I drove to Milltown today and tried to get some more first hand looks of course I believe that horses either have been hauled out or are dead or locked in barns.....there were not many outside....I then went to the court house to try and talk to a officer and when getting there one was sitting in his truck so I pulled up and wanted to talk to him, ask some questions and what I was told was shocking, he said that there doing everything they can to help and they have had 5 different vets out there and they feel that the horses are fine and should stay on the property... really?????? he tried to tell me that they wish that people would stop blaming and jumping to conclusions and blaming Mike and his wife????really, they did this crap in st Croix county and no one did anything to save the horses....I seen first hand what they did!!!!! WHY is it so hard for officials to take action on these people???? the couple has a huge criminal history, they owe money everywhere and will never change....there making money while there horses suffer!!!! I have owned horses my entire life and this is ridiculous.....no excuse for this. I kept getting told from the officer that there doing all they can really????? NO THERE NOT!!!!!! We the voice for the horses who can not talk or find help for themselves must speak for them and get them the help they need.....we must stand together and work hard to stop this...The officer must not have a heart if you can look at those horses and just walk away!!!! I sure hope that POLK COUNTY does not fail these horses like they failed Isaiah.....( the little boy who was found in a trunk after we all asked numerous times to check the property again and they reassured us they did that)

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    1. Jumping to conclusions??? Really. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the horses are starving. Feist did this in New Richmond too, AND GOT AWAY WITH IT. NOT THIS TIME. NOT THIS DAY. I called the sheriff, the DA and the Town Chairman. Told them all to issue an executive order and allow all the animals to be removed immediately!

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  5. Has anyone contacted the DNR? There are restrictions on how many animals can be housed per acre of land. I'm guessing this farm is over that limit.

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  6. I would love to know where they are getting those vets from! That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard. No one is jumping to conclusions. These people need to be stopped and this will NEVER stop unless Polk County takes the action to do so. Mike and Brenda most certainly are to blame. You own animals you take care of them end of story. If you don't, you don't deserve to have them. It sounds like the county is taking the easy way out once again instead of doing their job. Very good thing to remember come election time. I have also seen first hand how these people operate. Shame on any one who thinks this is okay! If you think for one minute that this treatment will ever change think again!!! Why should they change they never have to answer for their actions. I am sure this is another situation that they will just laugh off as they have in the past. All I can say is those poor animals. They have never did anything to deserve this!!! If they EVER did anything wrong believe me he would have taken care of it! What a sad situation. I am so disappointed in the people choosing to not take action against them. I hope you are able to live with yourselves!!! I know I couldn't!!!

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  7. Polk County needs to wake the hell up! Animal cruelty is against the law! Of coarse these people are cooperating, they have been caught abusing there animals. That is not going to stop them. they did this before and got away with it. I'm sure they were cooperating before. I don't understand why nothing is being done. These people do not deserve to have animals. They could have made a better choice for these animals instead of starving them. THEY DIDNT!, this is there fault and they need to be punished for what they did. It really is that easy!

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    1. I hope it isn't a bad sign for the horses that this is taking so long. I am so afraid these horses are going to have to continue to suffer. I can't believe they can possible think what is going on at OCR is okay.

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    2. It's terrible that in SO MANY neglect cases, the authorities are very reluctant to act, and when they do begin to act, they take forever to make any real changes. I believe laws about animal neglect need to be made stronger... and we need to train our cops to take it more seriously.

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  8. When i talked to sheriff of Polk county he believed when autopsy came back they would have enough to press charges. I also was told by friend of vet that was it there that there were approx 20 more horses that needed to be put down they weren't alive they were "JUST BREATHING".

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  9. Do these horses have enough to eat now while all this is being debated?

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    1. Some hay has been donated, but not nearly enough to feed 100 animals.

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  10. Heather - Did you get the name of the officer? Can you get the names of the vets? Maybe the media should be notified again if the Police department is going to cover for them, or maybe the Humane Society? I find it very hard to believe that 5 different vets considered these horses to be "fine".

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    1. Right. I'd like to see the names of those five vets. Bogus. Why would they need to call in five vets in the first place unless it is because of the 80 plus horses there? NO ONE can properly care for 80 horses. Hoarders. Owners need prosecution.

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  11. Who is taking their kids to this place to ride? If they can't afford hay, they most likely aren't affording liability insurance either. They are also probably behind on their sales and use tax as a business. There has got to be a way to get this stopped! Media coverage would hopefully stop the flow of children being exposed to this atrocity as well.

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  12. So sad, makes me cry. Animals do not have a voice. We are all they have. I pray that the right thing is done so these people can never care for animals again, some people are just not capable of it. I will pray for the rest of the animals that are still alive, pray that they all find GREAT homes, because that is what they deserve.

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  14. As a person who knows first had of the neglect to their horses at their previous farm in NR it is sad to see this. When I left (on my own terms) I contacted many people who worked with Dog/cats rescues; looking to find who I could report them to. I was told to call the sheriff. I was told by the Sheriff that as long as they were being fed and had water; nothing could be done. Unfortunately, the horses did have plenty of feed and water. Also, they were standing in 2-3 feet of CRAP!!!! When owners were gone; I spent 2 hrs cleaning one stall. I was able to get to the floor in a 3x3'

    I am sad to hear about this happening to the horses, yet it doesn't surprise me. BELIEVE ME... I WILL BE CALLING!!!!

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    1. Thank you for sharing this experience with us, and thank you for calling!!

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  15. Generally I read hit the Like button & move on. Not this time. Contacted Sheriff Pete Johnson's ofc. and got voicemal. Explained I was calling from PA and read the script, which you wisely provided.. I am so tempted right now to call major TV news channels to prompt public knowledge; but do not want to make matters worse. You who are more experienced will know when to take such action.

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  16. I like the tax idea. Time for your audit!! Bet that bill was missed too. Are they willing to give some up or are they in denial? Wisconsin laws have to changed for all these horses, state wide and checked on by a trained agent, not a vet who may be afraid of loosing business. Aspca? Does Wis. have one? If not, we need one. Im so sick of knowing there are people breeding horses they cant care for and think they are " just fine". Grrrr.

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  17. Is there any kind of update you can give us? Tests should be back. If they are not going to act and remove the horses and punish the owners we need to do more!!!! Please update us!

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  18. I looked on the "Standing Together for the Horses" Facebook page, but couldn't find any adoption papers I could fill out. If someone could direct provide a link or direct me to them, I'd be grateful.

    I wonder, too, about contacting a local farmer who might receive donations and deliver hay. I see round bales sitting on properties adjacent to / close to the farm.

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    1. That's a good idea at least until the horses and other animals are seized and removed permanently. Wonder why his lovely wife wasn't charged also. Maybe she is willing to rat him out?

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  19. What I don't understand is why is his wife Brenda not getting charged with anything? She is the owner of the ranch and is very aware of what goes on there. She is just a guilty as he is!!! WHEN they release these horses as they SHOULD, make sure they are required to also hand over the registration papers along with signed transfers. So when these horses get to their new loving homes the papers will go along with them and these people will have no claim on them! If you need the transfers you can find them on the Appaloosa website. I am sure the Appaloosa horse club will be very willing to work with you guys and help you with whatever you need.

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  20. I worked for this man, 2-3 years ago, On his horse farm in New Richmond, and elsewhere. He stiffed my friend and I for near 1500 dollars each, in labor.He has been involved in many business ventures, always with other peoples money or labor. Making promises to pay when it gets better. And, as you have seen, it never gets better. He just keeps moving around. It is time to stop this con artist from taking anything from anybody! I had met his wife, also. I dont believe she is as negligent as he is, but she is a devoted wife. It is a sad situation that he has caused in you wonderful community. May God help us all to bring justice to this matter, ASAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  21. I also worked for them and she is the one that writes out all the checks to pay for the feed, hay and help, so she knows damn good and well when the animals are not getting fed and taken care of properly!!! Yes she is much nicer than Mike, but she certainly knew what was going on!!!

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  22. This cannot be swept under the rug and forgotten, please do all you can to save these poor animals.
    These people need to get jail time for abuse of animals. When will the autopsy results be in?
    During the cold winter horses need more hay to stay warm, keep their body temperature up, this is an urgent matter.

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  23. What is happening with this case?

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  24. Just read the verdict on WEAU13. Jail is a good place for this scumbag. I fed their horses in New Richmond. Never got paid from these thieves. At least the horses ate good then, for a month. Con artists is the label that comes to mind for both Brenda and Mike.

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  25. I worked for this man back in 2007 and things were just as horrific back then. I filed a police report myself documenting the neglect and abuse, but nothing came of it. I am beyond thrilled to see that he's finally being charged!

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  26. This man has a history of abusing humans and animals alike as far back as his teen years living in Wells, MN. He is a chronic liar and total con artists. He has left unpaid debts everywhere he goes and yet he continues to find people who will feel sorry for him. Well, you shouldn't. He has shunned his responsibilities everywhere from animals to human alike. He is not a good person and he definately does not deserve to be in charge of any type of animal whatsoever. These horses need to be taken away from both Micheal and Brenda. She is just as guilty.

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  27. They are both GUILTY~They knew dam well what they were doing!!He is a Huge Liar!!He has duped alot of people & still gets away with his abuse!Enough is Enough!She should be charged as well,she knew what was going on & FAILED to report it!!They should not be able to have ANY sort of animals,and jailtime is definately what is deserving of these ABUSERS!!!!!!

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