Horse trainer pleads guilty to inhumane treatment of animals

Farm Forum

An Aberdeen horse trainer is not allowed to care for any animals for a year after pleading guilty to three misdemeanor counts of inhumane treatment of animals.

Robert “Bobby” J. Haar, 23, was not in court on Feb. 20, but his attorney, William Gerdes, entered the guilty pleas on Haar’s behalf.

One term of his sentence is that he cannot possess, train, race, own or care for horses or any other animals for a year while he’s on probation. On each count, Haar was sentenced to 360 days in jail with all of the time suspended and the terms to run concurrently.

Haar must pay $385 in fines and fees on each count. He must also pay $174 in outstanding restitution.

The charges against Haar stem from his neglecting to properly feed and care for race horses. He was charged with caring for nine race horses, two of which starved to death in November. The seven surviving horses were impounded by the Brown County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 12, according to court documents. Foote Creek Stables, just southwest of Aberdeen, cared for the animals while they were in custody.

Later in November, the owner of one of the horses, Storm Force Five, picked up that horse from the stable. Recently, five of the horses were picked up by Valerie Killian, who is listed in court paperwork as owner or co-owner of Golden Cedar, Rapid Jack, Hot Foot Slew, Perspective Kiss and He Can Do That.

Killian paid the roughly $12,600 in veterinarian and stable care bills when she picked up the horses.

The remaining horse, Army Officer, was picked up by his owner, a man from Alpena, on Feb. 19, said Jennifer Bjorgaard, who, with her husband, owns Foote Creek Stables.

Larry Lovrien, Brown County state’s attorney, said it’s his understanding that Killian is Haar’s grandmother. He said the prospect of investigating Killian was considered, but ultimately a decision was made to charge Haar, the person who was supposed to be caring for the horses.

If the health of the horses regresses, Lovrien said, Killian could face consequences. The county is monitoring the horses, which were nursed back to health at the stable, he said.

Lovrien said it is concerning

that nobody reported the malnourished horses until one died and that he will make inquiries about why that was the case. But now, he said, people will pay closer attention in such instances. If people know that animals are being abused, they should inform authorities, he said.

In South Dakota, animal abuse or cruelty can be charged as only a misdemeanor. Recently, state legislators debated whether to create a felony animal abuse charge, but decided against it.

Gerdes said his client wanted to make it clear that other family members who are involved in the horse industry have nothing to do with this case. The improper treatment of the nine race horses was fully Haar’s responsibility, and he does not want it to reflect on his family, Gerdes said.

Haar has relatives in the Westport area. His address was listed in a previous story and in court files as Westport, but he now lives in Aberdeen.

Haar rented space at Foote Creek Stables, where the horses he was caring for were kept. He was not an employee. The stable offers two types of services, full-care and self-care. Under the self-care option, a person rents space at the stable and cares for the horses on his or her own. Haar had selected the self-care option, authorities have said.

Lovrien and Bjorgaard agree that the horses were healthy when they were released to Killian. Bjorgaard said the stable supplemented the horses’ regular diet with vitamins and electrolytes while they were being nursed back to health.

Gerdes said Haar has successfully trained horses in the past, but did not seek assistance to properly care for the nine races horses in this case.

Bjorgaard said she did not know the names of the two horses that starved to death.