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Prairie Farm woman waives preliminary hearing in case of horse neglect

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — A 74-year-old Prairie Farm woman who has been charged with 11 counts of mistreating horses in the Town of Sheridan north of Boyceville has waived a preliminary hearing.

Darleen R. Freiheit appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court September 10 along with her attorney, Julie Weber.

During a preliminary hearing, the defense and the prosecution can question witnesses and present evidence.

The Honorable William Stewart accepted Freiheit’s waiver, reviewed the criminal complaint, found probable cause and scheduled an arraignment for November.

Freiheit is charged with two felony counts of mistreating animals causing death and nine misdemeanor counts of intentionally mistreating animals.

All together, 29 horses were in Freiheit’s care.

According to the criminal complaint, the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department had received complaints about dead horses, and sheriff’s deputies had gone to investigate on April 10 but could not find any dead or mistreated horses.

Sheriff’s deputies again went to investigate on April 14 and located the animals in the Town of a Sheridan about a mile west of the initial location.

Freiheit told investigators that the horses had hay at all times during the winter, except for perhaps a day or so when they did not have hay, but that she had recently had problems with the people helping her, and they had stopped hauling her hay.

Deputies observed that the only source of water for the horses was a creek running through the property and that there was no shelter for the animals.

According to a report issued by a veterinarian who had been called to examine the horses, the body condition scores of the horses in Freiheit’s care, on a scale of one to ten, ranged from less than one up to as much as five.

Scores of five to seven are within the normal range.

On April 17, Judge William C. Stewart signed a Petition for the Authorization of the Sale, Destruction or Other Disposal of Animals. The petition stated that two dead horses were transported to the state veterinary diagnostic lab in Barron, and the necropsy results were that no body fat was found on either horse and there were intestinal parasites connected to starvation.

A $1,000 signature bond was set during Freiheit’s initial court appearance May 14.

The arraignment hearing for Freiheit is scheduled at 9 a.m. on November 25.