LAPORTE, Minn. — Stephanie Nicole Johnson, 27, and Johnathan Macarthur Johnson, 32, of Laporte have been charged with nine counts of overwork/mistreatment of animals/torture for depriving horses of food, water or shelter — all felonies.
According to the statement of probable cause filed with Hubbard County District Court, a Hubbard County sheriff's deputy responded to the Johnson residence on April 4 after receiving a report of animal neglect.
The deputy saw two horses that appeared malnourished and a dead horse inside the shelter. The deputy did not see any water or food for the horses.
The complaint states Stephanie Johnson refused to show the deputy the horse feed and denied that there was a deceased horse. When the deputy advised her that he saw the horse, then she admitted it "went down" in January. Stephanie said the horse would not get back up, so she shot the horse. She again refused to show the horse feed.
The deputy then left the residence and parked along 295th Avenue in view of the residence while a search warrant was drafted. The deputy saw Stephanie bring buckets of food and a water hose out to the horses.
According to the complaint, Stephanie approached the squad car and asked, "Are you really going to do this to me?"
When asked how many horses she had, Stephanie replied that she had five. The deputy advised Stephanie that a March 7 report noted that there were eight horses. Stephanie said she sold three of them. She said there were not any other dead horses or animals on the property.
After obtaining a search warrant, the deputy and an investigator entered the Johnson property. Upon observing the dead horse, Stephanie said she shot the horse in the stomach because she was moving her head too much.
The investigator located two additional deceased horses on the property. Stephanie said the horses died while foaling. The deputy did not observe any evidence of a foal near the deceased horses.
Stephanie then said that one of the horses, Robyn, died in February when it was -40 degrees.
Stephanie said she and her husband, Johnathan Johnson, go to Bemidji daily to purchase bags of alfalfa cubes for the horses. Law enforcement saw multiple empty bags of alfalfa cubes and only one partial bag in the residence. There were no other bags of horse feed.
The deputy saw two live horses in the pasture and noted numerous trees missing bark as a result of the horses chewing on them.
A deceased foal was found along the edge of the fence, partially in the water. Stephanie said she had no idea that it was there and did not know which horse had given birth to it. According to the complaint, "the foal appeared to have been there for some time as its eyes were missing and the intestines were hanging out."
On April 5, law enforcement and a veterinarian returned to the Johnson residence to examine the five living horses and four deceased horses. The vet said the live horses were in poor health from a lack of adequate nutrition. The vet used a Body Condition Scoring to calculate each horse's heath. The score goes from 0 (dead) to 9 (extremely fat). He made the following observations:
- Male horse, approximately one year old, Jack, was very thin with a BCS of 2 and large abdomen, which indicated the horse had no muscle strength.
- Male horse, approximately one-and-a-half years old, slender with a BCS of 4.
- Female horse, Lady, very thin with large abdomen. May be pregnant. Lady had no muscle covering her spine or ribs. Feet were cracked and had a BCS of 2 to 3.
- Female horse, Anna, very thin, with a BCS of 3.
- Male horse, Cactus, very thin with no muscle over spine or ribs, BCS of 2.
- Adult female horse, Maize, dead for more than a month.
- Adult female horse, Robyn, dead. Very thin.
- Newborn foal, dead. Abdomen had been opened by predators.
The Johnsons were advised that the horses would be seized at that time.
On May 28, Hubbard County Sheriff Aukes learned that the pregnant horse, Lady, died as a result of poor nutrition while at the Johnson residence.
The case is currently pending disposition.