On Monday morning Michael Johnson’s lawyer released the following press release to the Plaindealer regarding an alleged animal cruielty case.
The Minnesota Humane Society has stolen Michael Johnson’s horses. Mr. Johnson wants them returned.
On June 22, 2018, Humane Society Agent Keith Streff, accompanied by members of the
Watonwan Sheriff’s Department, visited the horse farm of Michael Johnson, located in the City
of Odin. Streff alleged neglect and seized the horses to “dispose” of them.
Johnson breeds miniature horses. The horses are adorable. Johnson selectively breeds only the best of his horses. He sometimes sells a few to recoup costs.
Despite Streff’s claims, the horses were not neglected.
The horses are currently in the care of a local veterinarian, Dr. Shirley Kittleson. Dr. Kittleson
stated that the horses are “fat and happy.” She also said, “[t]hese are some of the finest looking
animals I have ever seen.”
Scott McClure, an expert from Iowa, agreed with Dr. Kittleson. He, too, wonders how the
Humane Society could possibly justify the removal of these horses.
Johnson loves his animals. A colt was injured in transport. It is now lost forever. Johnson simply
wants his remaining animals back.
Streff claims sole discretion as to disposition of the horses. He’s suggested adoption, castration,
and euthanization. Johnson, on the other hand, wants the horses returned to his farm. No formal
charges have yet been made or requested.
According to a Animal Humane Society spokesperson The Animal Humane Society was asked to respond to the case in June after a concerned citizen called the Watonwan County Sheriff's Office to report the condition of the miniature horses in Johnson's care. A sheriff's deputy responded to the animal welfare call. After visiting the farm and observing the condition of the animals, sheriff's deputies called Animal Humane Society (AHS) Agent Keith Streff for an agency assist.
The deputy observed horses with extremely over-grown hooves. Some of the ponies appeared to be in pain and had difficulty walking. Some also had signs suggesting evidence of long-term neglect.
Agent Streff and Watonwan County deputies made the decision to remove the horses for probable cause animal cruelty. Johnson agreed to and signed a custodial release, turning possession of the ponies over to AHS. The horses were transported to a local veterinarian for evaluation and treatment.
According to a press release sent out by the Watonwan County Sheriff's Office on June 22
On Friday June 22nd deputies from the Watonwan County Sheriffs Department executed a
search warrant at a rural farm site in Odin Township Section 25. Over 70 horses were removed
from the property for probable cause of criminal animal cruelty. The horses will be quarantined,
evaluated and treated as necessary. The disposition of the horses will be determined pursuant to
Minnesota statute 343.235.
Sheriff Deputies are working with Agent Keith Streff from the Animal Humane Society (AHS)
based in Golden Valley, MN. AHS is a private 501 C 3 non-profit organization dedicated to the
welfare of animals. They have a legislative commission to assist law enforcement with the
investigation and enforcement relevant to the animal welfare chapters 343-346.
The Animal Humane Society employs professional Humane Agents specifically trained in
humane law enforcement. They also provide law enforcement with the personnel, equipment and
resources necessary to process criminal animal cruelty cases when necessary.
Animal welfare cases are often emotionally charged with complicated circumstances and this
case is no exception. However, the facts and circumstances will be thoroughly investigated and
due process will be followed as required by law.
This is an active investigation. We ask those that are following this case to reserve judgment
until all the facts are established and the investigation is completed. Additional information will
be released as it becomes available.
Charges are pending upon review of reports by the Watonwan County Attorney's Office
According to the attorney for Michael Johnson Watonwan County is currently being charged around $25 per horse being boarded.
During the Watonwan County Commissioners Meeting on Tuesday morning the horse farm is scheduled to be on the agenda.
The Plaindealer will provide updates as they become available.