California Woman Charged with Animal Cruelty

Cynthia Jean Hamilton is accused of starving 17 horses; animals are under care of Flathead County Animal Control and are in need of hay donations

By Maggie Dresser

A California woman is accused of inadequately feeding 17 horses on multiple properties in Columbia Falls and around Flathead County, leaving the animals “in various stages of starvation,” according to law enforcement.

Cynthia Jean Hamilton, 68, has been charged with aggravated animal cruelty and was booked into the Flathead County Detention Center on Dec. 30.

On Sept. 19, Flathead County Animal Control wardens responded to an animal cruelty complaint involving multiple horses at a residence in the Columbia Falls area where they found five inadequately fed horses, according to a press release from the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office.

During an investigation, authorities discovered there were likely more horses belonging to the same owner at other pastures around the county. Wardens located 17 horses in total, “all in very poor condition” and in “various stages of starvation.” Prior to the initial report, one horse reportedly “may have died,” the press release states.

Sheriff’s office detectives were granted a search warrant on Sept. 28 and seized all 17 horses and brought them to Flathead County Animal Control, where they remain in care at Flathead County facilities.

“These types of cases, no matter what kind of animal, places a strain on the resources Flathead County agencies currently have in regards to care for seized animals,” the press release states. 

According to charging documents, a veterinarian conducted physical exams on 10 horses, concluding they all had below average body scores and all had parasites, which required “a strong course of treatment.”

Hamilton told law enforcement that she could not afford to feed the animals, records state.

The horses will remain in the county’s care until court proceedings are finished and authorities are requesting donations of grass hay or light alfalfa grass hay.

If anyone is able to donate, contact county officials at [email protected].

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