Controversy is brewing surrounding an investigation into the suspected abuse of horses in the small Wisconsin town of Bell, which is located in Bayfield County.

The Bayfield County Sheriff's Office had received a complaint regarding the abuse of several horses in the area, and on Wednesday, July 10, they issued a formal update on the case, which they shared through their Facebook page.

While the update seemed straightforward for those not familiar with the situation, it has led to soaring emotions and controversy within the community as it allegedly left out an important piece of information that was included in a first draft.

Now, people want answers and action.

Bayfield County Sheriff's Office Update Issued On The Afternoon Of July 10

The official update, shared on Facebook, read as follows:

"Over the past several months, the Bayfield County Sheriff's Office, in conjunction with the Bayfield County Humane Officer, has investigated a complaint regarding the suspected neglect of several horses at a location in the Town of Bell.

Following a court-ordered inspection warrant, evidence was gathered to further investigate the conditions and treatment of the horses at this site. Subsequently, a separate search and seizure warrant was issued by the court, leading to the seizure of more than 15 horses.

The seized horses were examined with the assistance of several trained veterinarians. Throughout this process, the owner of the animals has been cooperative and committed to ensuring all animals are properly cared for.

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The health and well-being of animals together with serving the constitutional rights of all citizens, remain a top priority for the Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office understands that animal investigations face heightened public scrutiny. Nonetheless, the investigation and referral of potential prosecutable cases will always be conducted with the same diligence, based on the collected evidence.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support."

The Update Leads To Controversy And Anger

It didn't take long for people to emotionally comment on the Bayfield County Sheriff's Department update and suggest that they had left out an important piece of information that was in a first draft.

Hannah Stonehouse Hudson wrote a comment that accused the sheriff's office of significantly editing this press release from the first time they posted it. She claims the first update also included the following:

"Due to conflicting medical examinations by the veterinarians, and after consulting with the District Attorney's Office, there is insufficient evidence to support a referral for criminal prosecution. As a result, the seized animals are being returned to the owner."

A rapidly growing number of comments show that returning the animals to the owner is unacceptable to many, and anger is brewing. Comments initially written included:

  • Sarah Mather: "There are literally pictures of horse carcasses on the property and in trees, and you returned these animals to the “owners”? These animals deserve a safe, healthy and happy place to live you yall just destroyed their chance of survival. Absolutely appalling."
  • Kyleen Pedersen: This is insane! WI has animal welfare laws for a reason. There should not be conflicting statements from veterinarians and those horses shouldn't be returned. I see numerous violations in photos and videos surfacing. Maybe look into some case law, specifically Douglas County, WI. - this is coming from someone who investigated animal welfare in Minnesota. I'm appalled.
    For the public, request public data since the case seems to be closed. Request the calls for service, charges denied, veterinary records, etc. Anything pertaining to the case."
  • Jessica Waclawski: "You support animal abuse and fail to do your job. Posting a statement like this is embarrassing and shows that your office approves cruel treatment of animals which is illegal by State law. Sad and disappointing. You will be hearing from the State."
  • Cynthia Anne: "Shame on all involved in turning a blind eye from day 1 which was eons ago! It’s not as if no one brought this to your attention! How many now dead horses and wolves suffered because no one in charge cared?"
  • Alyvia Adamski: "This is disgusting! They should not be able to have any animals in their possession. If they “are committed to ensuring all animals are properly cared for” that’s what they signed up for when they got them in the first place, why give them a second chance? Who’s responsible for making sure they care for the animals? What is their definition of care? Who is going to follow up? If they don’t do as they say then are they going to be able to remove them from the location or will they get another chance? This is not okay."
  • Jess Johnson: "Kimberly.Lawton@da.wi.gov. Email now & voice what needs to happen. Commenting does nothing but stir up anger & worry! As an animal lover, we’ve got to be a voice for these innocent loving creatures!!!!!!!
    This is CRUEL."

That is just a small sample of over 140 comments that had poured in within hours of the Bayfield Country Sheriff's Department update.

As of late Wednesday night, the sheriff's office had issued no further response through social media.

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