NEAR CHATFIELD, Minn. (FOX 47) – A Chatfield man who says he was trying to help seven horses is now facing felony charges over the conditions of those horses.
Jeremiah Smaglik grew up around horses as a child and says that is why he purchased five horses from Ryon’s Rescue in Cannon Falls between July 20, 2018 and September 17th, 2018.
The other two horses were purchased from a different rescue in Kansas. Smaglik says all the horses were thin when he got them.
Smaglik said if he hadn’t taken the horses in they would have been put down and he has nine acres of space for the animals to move freely, “I knew they needed help they were either gonna be sent to Mexico for slaughter and I know I had the room and had the feed for them.”
Smaglik said when he purchased the horses from Ryon’s Rescue, they were thin and some would choke if given to much hay, “So I was fighting a battle of you know trying to keep them just under where they would get sick, but yet give them enough to gain weight.”
According to the criminal complaint, the first neglect was reported in October. When an officer arrived at the property, he noticed horses were thin and one horse wearing a blanket was limping. Smaglik told the officer they were thin because he purchased them from a “kill pen.”
On March 25th another complaint came in about abnormally thin horses. A deputy drove to the property and observed emaciated horses. The next morning, a passer-by saw two dead horses under a tarp at Smaglik’s property. He said he was not able to bury the horses because the ground was too frozen.
“Almost all the horses were in poor condition, had lice, had parasites and things like that,” said Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson. “They were given veterinary attention and than from there they were kinda housed with different families.” Deputies took pictures for evidence.
“Mr. Smaglik described these horses as his pets so if they’re pets then the consequences is more severe thus why we have felony charges,” stated Corson. “Two felony charges, two gross misdemeanor and than some misdemeanors and the felony the maximum penalty is two years and a $5,000 dollar fine.”
Smaglik voluntarily surrendered the five surviving horses to the Minnesota Animal Humane Society.
“I don’t feel like I underestimated how much horses can eat, I had my vet out and my vet said just give them a little more hay so that’s what I did,” said Smaglik. “I feel horrible about what happened but when you listen to your vet you gotta trust him if you don’t trust him it’s not a good thing.”
According to the criminal complaint, when authorities spoke with the veterinarian, he said that he told Smaglik he needs to be feeding the horses 20-25 pounds of hay per day, almost double what Smaglik was feeding them. The document also says the veterinarian added that Smaglik “kept high quality hay for the horses, but doesn’t feed the horses enough of it.”
Smaglik said he’s reminded of the horses every day by his empty pasture, “I come home every night to not hearing them they’d be waiting at the gate when I come home from work.”
Smaglik has his first court appearance Monday June 17th. He does not have any prior charges or convictions related to animal abuse.