Wisconsin horse owner faces new charges after deputy standoff

Farm Forum

A Polk County, Wis., ranch owner accused of mistreating horses on his property has had new charges filed against him after allegedly getting into an altercation with a sheriff’s deputy.

Michael A. Feist, 58, was charged in Polk County Circuit Court Jan. 3 with felony bail jumping and misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer following the alleged incident at Feist’s Otter Creek Ranch in the town of Milltown, Wis.

Feist was charged back in November with four felonies and 30 misdemeanors relating to the conditions of horses on the property, four of which were allegedly found dead by deputies executing a search warrant. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Feist’s bond in that case stipulates that he allow deputies onto his property to check the conditions of horses at the ranch, and a Polk County sheriff’s deputy was doing just that when the alleged incident occurred.

The deputy arrived on the property at about 9:30 a.m. Dec. 27 to inspect the horses and property when Feist, carrying a sledgehammer, approached the deputy while yelling, swearing, and demanding that the deputy leave the property, according to the criminal complaint.

Feist told the deputy to “get the (expletive) off my property” and claimed he was being harassed, the complaint states.

He refused to drop the sledgehammer and took an aggressive stance with the deputy, but after the deputy began to draw his sidearm, Feist threw the sledgehammer to his side, according to the complaint, which says Feist then started to move toward the sledgehammer.

Feist threatened to assault the deputy, and the deputy used pepper spray and a stun gun on Feist as he resisted arrest — at one point telling the deputy that he was a karate expert, the complaint states.

Feist was taken into custody and later posted a $500 cash bond in the case.

An attorney listed for Feist did not immediately return a call for comment on Jan. 9.

A final pretrial is scheduled for Feb. 28 in the previous case, in which Feist is charged with four felony counts of mistreatment of animals, 15 counts of misdemeanor mistreatment of animals and 15 counts of misdemeanor failure to provide proper food and drink to confined animals.

The Polk County sheriff’s office looked into matter after being contacted by a veterinarian who became concerned about the horses’ wellbeing after seeing images on Facebook that appeared to show them malnourished, according to the criminal complaint in that case.

A veterinarian and sheriff’s deputy went to the ranch and found several horses in “nutritional distress,” and in executing a search warrant weeks later, deputies found four dead horses, the complaint states.

Another condition of Feist’s bond in the case stipulates that he maintain proper food and water for the horses, which remain on the property.

“Everybody would love to go take the horses, but everybody has got to remember that he’s been charged, he’s not been convicted,” Polk County District Attorney Dan Steffen said on Jan. 8, adding “we have to comply with everybody’s rights.”

Steffen said he has not received any more reports that the horses are not being cared for. He said deputies will continue to check on the animals.