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Sherburn vet remains stuck with 72 horses

SHERBURN — Kindness and compassion should never have to meet with indifference and blame-shifting. However, rural Sherburn veterinarian Shirley Kittleson is now faced with just such a dilemma.

In 2018, Kittleson was asked by the Animal Humane Society and Watonwan County to take in a herd of 72 miniature horses after they were seized from a farm, after it was found they were mistreated. Feeding and care for the animals has now topped $325,000, and neither Watonwan County or the AHS is willing to pony up.

Kittleson has filed a lawsuit against both for nonpayment, and the whole matter is currently in legal limbo.

“Nothing is really happening,” she said. “It’s with the lawyers now and I haven’t really heard anything for over a week, so it’ll probably go to court.”

Kittleson’s son Chase Crawford shared some background information on the situation.

“The Animal Humane Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit based out of Brooklyn Park, and somebody must have called a complaint in on the ponies, which were owned by Mike Johnson up by Odin,” he said. “They were in good shape and well-fed, but a bunch of them had their hooves grown out farther than they should and having a little bit of a hard time getting around.

“So they used that as an excuse to confiscate all these ponies and charge him with animal cruelty. Since we were the closest vet that could handle these horses, my mother agreed to take them.”

After Kittleson’s lawsuit was filed, AHS counter-sued, alleging Johnson should be responsible for the bill.

“We’ve been requesting that they release the ponies for a long time,” Crawford said. “But they won’t release them and they won’t pay the bill they agreed to to begin with.

“We can’t legally release them until the Humane Society does because Watonwan County sent us a letter saying we couldn’t release them until the Humane Society did. So it’s just stuck in this goofy quandary.”

“We’re asking for the Animal Humane Society to give us a signed release so we can find a home for the ponies” Kittleson said. “But the big problem is that they don’t want to pay for the board, and we’ve had them here for over a year and a half. So that’s what the legal issue is.”

Crawford has set up a GoFundMe page to help with costs, though he said it was done primarily to keep others from doing so.

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