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Malnourished horses, sheep, lambs found in Minnesota; owners face felony charges

HAWLEY, Minn. — Two people are accused of mistreating animals after authorities found horses, sheep and lambs underweight and malnourished.

Belinda Rae Erdman, 41, of Hawley, and Daniel Arnold Erdman, 42, of Perham, Minn., are each charged with two felony counts of mistreatment of animals and five misdemeanor counts of the same offense, according to documents filed Tuesday, April 30, in Clay County District Court.

In March, Clay County sheriff's deputies made two animal welfare checks at a rural property in Hawley where they met Daniel Erdman and Belinda Erdman. Deputies noticed two horses with hip bones showing, water buckets that were empty and a dead sheep in a pen, according to court documents.

Belinda Erdman told authorities one of their horses died after someone came onto their property and fed pig feed to the horse, court documents stated.

During a third visit in April, authorities brought along a veterinarian who noted the two horses were thin and dehydrated, and one of the horses had internal medical issues, court documents show.

A third horse appeared to be in better condition but was in a small, unclean pen, court documents stated. Several sheep and lambs also appeared to be thin, court documents show. Authorities seized the horses, sheep and lambs due to the lack of food, water and appropriate shelter.

Belinda Erdman told deputies “there was no water source for the horses and stated she has to haul water in from town for them,” court documents said.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Daniel Erdman said he's been having trouble because he believes someone is breaking into his property and tampering with it, reiterating that someone fed one of his horses the wrong feed.

Daniel Erdman said the increase in hay prices made hay hard to find and he had to change how he fed his animals. “I’ve never had a year where I’ve had this much trouble,” he said.

Online records did not list a phone number for Belinda Erdman. Court records do not list an attorney for either defendant. The two are set to appear in court May 28.