Equine Rescue

1,200 Animal Montana Rescue Drawing to a Close

by Jerry Finch ~ Founder/President of Habitat for Horses

Dozens of Volunteers Save Hundreds of Animals

Fourteen hours after leaving Missoula, Montana, my plane landed in Houston’s Hobby Airport. None of the locals thought the 50 degree weather they were experiencing was warm, but I stood happily outside in shirt sleeves waiting for the shuttle. I doubt that I will ever complain about the cold weather of South Texas again, even on the rare day that it reaches freezing. Walking through frozen pastures at -10 is enough to convince me that the South is a place to call home.

Horse Pens are finally empty ~ Photo by Jerry Finch

The end of the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary and Rescue is now in sight. I spent the last three weeks doing whatever was necessary to help clear out around 1,200 animals, of which only 120 were equine. It took the efforts of dozens of people working together to reach this point. No one organization tried to claim the ultimate victory by waving their flag. We all did it by each organization playing a role for the animals under their assigned care.

Two days after landing I received an email that brought it all together. A young lady named Alvin, working from the internet and literally a thousand miles away, announce that all the llamas had finally been adopted. Her work and coordination with Karyn of AniMeals, who has stayed on site since before Christmas, found homes for each one of the surviving llamas, over 600 of them. The remaining few will be leaving this week. By January 31st, Karyn, her husband Jeff and Ang, Kayrn’s co-worker, will drive off and return to their lives.

A short time ago, Jane Heath of the Montana Horse Sanctuary ( http://www.montanahorsesanctuary.org ) announced, “Whew! All the horses are now out of Hot Springs and are in a wonderful foster care facility in the Bitterroot Valley.” Previous to that, all the donkeys had been removed. Currently the horses are being placed on their website. Phyllis Ruana and her friend Bev of the Montana Animal Care Association, did 99.9% of the work in Hot Spring, rebuilding fences, hauling water, setting out hay and capturing horses that had rather not be touched, all of this in the bitter cold and snow on ice covered ground.

The goats and sheep, plus a couple of blind horses, left the sanctuary grounds. The two camels left a few days ago, thanks to Dave Pauli of HSUS. One camel has a really rotten attitude (the other had to have his feet trimmed so he could walk) and fully enjoyed the screams of panic when he charged after people. I never knew this before, but when camels are upset, they foam at the mouth and growl. That’s the indicator to get away from the fence. All things considered, I can guarantee that we won’t have any resident camels at HfH.

On Monday the trailer full of pot-belly pigs leave for their new home. Then each day trailers are showing up to remove more camels. The bison leave Tuesday, which is also the day that the three remaining steers and one calf are rounded up and taken to the rehab location a few miles away with the remaining steers and cows.

The world famous cow, Molly B, ( http://www.freedomforanimals.org/mollybcow.htm ) and her friend, a dew-eyed heifer named “Baby,” will obtain sanctuary at another location in Montana this week. Read her story and you’ll understand why she’s special. I can certainly tell you that her fighting spirit is not lacking in the least.

All the exotic birds are gone, as are the ducks, geese and cavies. Why there were cavies at that place is beyond me.

So the rescue of 1,200 animals is coming to a close. After six weeks of intense work and negotiations, much of it done by Patty of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the collapse of the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary and Rescue, once billed as a rescue that is “too large to handle,” is drawing to a close.

Now we find this in dozens of emails sent to the office today:

It never ends.

Jerry Finch
Habitat for Horses, Inc.
PO Box 213
Hitchcock, TX 77563

Montana Sanctuary Rescue: Part Three – The Cattle Drive

Horses Rescued from Montana Large Animal Sanctuary

Update: Death in the Montana Mountains

Sanctuary Lost: Death in the Montana Mountains

23 replies »

  1. I absolutely believe with my whole heart and soul that Jerry Finch is one of God’s Chosen.
    Stompin’ through the freezing snow, ministering to animals who had simply had ENOUGH and couldn’t have cared less if another human ever came near them, through the anger and through the grief and he did it anyway.
    I don’t have many ‘heroes’; very few fit the profile. But this is the very definition of ‘above and beyond’.
    And I’m grateful he’s on their side.


  2. He and the others are just amazing people. There really are no words for people like these, except Angels perhaps. And the story of Molly B the cow is amazing too. In our denigration of “cattle” in the fight to save horses, we forget these animals want to live too. Read her story. http://www.freedomforanimals.org/mollybcow.htm Glad she is finally in good hands.


  3. Based on what I read in the article link on the 450 horses dying of starvation, it doesn’t sound like they’re going to get much help. Is there anything that can be done? The worst part is, here is something that will be pointed to that if we still had slaughter in this country, but then, Mr. Leachman didn’t want to have his sale in Fall because he didn’t want just $200 a horse. Instead, he’s letting them all starve to death and blaming it on everyone else. It is so incredibly senseless. Hay for the cattle, but not the horses? Please keep us posted on what you know of this or if there’s any organization stepping in to help.


  4. In regards to the nightmare of the 450 horses … here are several links with information where donations and such can be sent at this time.




    Montana has a (406) area code … so wish my “state” was not currently the focal point of so much cruelty and neglect … big sigh.


  5. Amazing work. It takes a special breed of people to go out there and work so hard to save animals. Inspiring and very uplifting.


  6. Awesome story, Many thanks to Jerry Finch & the rest of the folks who pulled together to get this accomplished. It is just wonderful what can be achieved when people actually work TOGETHER 🙂


  7. Blessings on Jerry and everyone who helped make this monumental rescue a success, and on the animals as they settle into their new homes. I vote for HfH every day on the Animal Rescue Site, and encourage others to do the same. Help Jerry help the horses!

    Now, on to the newest disaster in Montana. Based on what I know from NM abuse cases, this is going to be very tricky unless Leachman surrenders the horses or agrees to sell them. Considering his “character” (HA!), and the fact he wouldn’t sell them earlier in the year for $200/head, I don’t think he’ll be inclined to do either. Even if they’re seized, they’ll legally still be his horses until removed from his ownership by a judge, which could take months.

    If the Livestock Board siezes the horses, they’ll be the property of the state until the final disposition is made. Any rescues or individuals who choose to “foster” the animals will bear the expense of care for horses that may ultimately end up back in the hands of their abuser. The state may end up with two cases – criminal for the abuse, and civil (liens on current and FUTURE assets and income – I don’t know how his bankruptcy will play into this) for the damages. But if the cases are structured carefully, the prosecutors know their stuff (which most don’t re: animal law – something that MUST change!), and the judges are more “anti-abuse” than “pro poor rancher”, the state/rescues/individuals may be able to recover some of their expenses even if things go the “poor rancher’s” way.

    These horses are scattered over thousands of acres, including a Crow allotment (MAJOR issue!). Rounding the majority up may not be possible considering the weather. Sorting them out is another problem. Evidently Leachman’s horses may be mixed with others’ domestics and possibly wild horses, his stud books are a mess, and, at one point, he said he didn’t know how many he owned!

    Some have suggested leaving them on the range and airlifting hay and water, but then there’s the whole balancing hay with available water issue for how many months? Another suggested option – let the horses fend for them themselves over the winter and let nature take it’s course. NATURE didn’t put these animals in this terrible situation. MAN DID! And from what I understand, not just a single man, but a combination of men and women who have chosen to look the other way for a number of years.

    I think as many of the nearby horses as possible need to be rounded up “the old way”, and others encouraged to come closer by following a hay and water “trail of breadcrumbs”. My bet is most will catch on fast. Then they can be taken to their “foster” homes.

    But (SORRY FOLKS) IMHO the only safe way to bring in the resistant and outlying horses from this large an area at this time of year is from the air – SLOWLY and CAREFULLY – by folks who really know their stuff. Otherwise, the remaining horses will have to survive as best they can until better weather. Not many ranchers will be willing to go out very far on horseback. There’s a guy who’s put up several comments to this story, many of which I don’t agree with, but as to the risks and experience required in this particular situation I think he’s right.

    I really feel for the woman who commented that she recognized her family’s brand on one of the horses, and is desperate to recover that and any other horse with their brand. From what she said, she wants these older horses to live out their lives on the family ranch. If she’s sincere, I sure hope things work out in her favor.


    • As to the 400+ equines in the throws of “Leachem”….from a legal perspective, it seems the authorities have already entered the property and are euthanizing; ergo Mr. Owner-from-Hell has lost his rights of ownership. The case of final litigation is up to the courts, but they apparently gave legal permission to enter the property and began shooting equines Whether the court or sheriff’s order is legal is another matter.


      • This is the latest article from the Billings Gazette:

        The video of the “Operation Home Place” meeting played, but I couldn’t get the audio to work, and I don’t read lips. Some have commented about fattening these 400 to 700 horses up and sending them to the Sale Barn BEFORE the state takes custody. IMO, that could result in a major civil suit by Leachman.

        From the article and comments, local folks and others nearby are mobilizing, but I haven’t seen anything about outside donations yet.


      • Oops! “… financial donations will be run through the NILE Foundation, a nonprofit 501c3 organization. To help, call the NILE office at: 406-256-2495.”


    • Yep, for sure, Louie.

      Jerry, one gets acclimated to the cold, just like I’m sure many of us here in the mountains would die and melt in your Texas heat and humidity LOL!

      Next stop: Billings and the 400+ horses in dire straights. 😦

      Don’t stop helping and praying, people, this is going to be long Winter. We need everyone’s assistance – each of us can be an angel and contribute in some way. Please donate, network, give and do what you can. Spring isn’t far away, thank God.


  8. God Bless all that have helped our animals, under the worst conditiones. You truly are Angels from Heaven….


  9. Some do cause the pain, some do nothing to fix the pain, some cry, some like Mr. Finch (and others) say…I can help.

    Thank you Mr. Finch (and others).

    I appreciate he knows about the next disaster in MT. I pray he can help. It doesn’t seem like the local LEOs have asked for any help.

    God help the survivors….God help US.


  10. Jerry: God bless you for all you have done for these animals. I’m wondering if your organization or the Humane Society could get a court order to take possession of the 400 horses. I think I read something like this in another case where they were able to get the horses post haste. I know these horses need your help and any other people that could help – even if some that helped you at the Sanctuary from Hell that you just left could help as well. I hope the lady gets her horses back. I think this is a great reminder that when one of us gives, sells our horses we never know what kind of individual is getting that animal. It would behoove us to find some way to continually monitor that these animals are being taken care of.

    Denise, I hope you are so wrong that they are starting to shoot these 400 horses. Why would anyone allow this to happen? Why wouldn’t he contact as many horse rescues and santuaries as possible to see that these animals get saved. It sounds like this guy is another idiot that has no conscience or human caring.


    • Lynne,

      Whoever is doing the “triage” made the decision that some of the horses were just in too bad of shape to rehab. They are not shooting all the horses. But I would feel more at ease knowing more about the people “helping” in this tragedy.


  11. Linda: I agree with you as to any way that would achieve the means of saving these horses should be tried, whether it is dropping hay and water, rounding up those close by and dropping the hay and water so the others find it. It certainly is worth a try. Let’s all pray that these horses get saved.


  12. God bless you all! Your efforts, hard work and sweat are not lost to those you have helped. I’ve made donations, here and there to help. We can all come together to donate, pray and participate the best we can. Wonderful news that all these animals have been rescued and are in foster homes.


  13. Now it has been confirmed , what I have always believed , there are truly Angels right here on earth, All the people who helped with all the animals from the sanctuary, And also Mr. R.T Finch( who must be the Head Angel ) and company, There are no words to express what these people accomplished …… God Will Bless each one of them………………………. THANK YOU ALL…………………………


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