CORRECTION: Lizakowski pleaded guilty to public nuisance
Editor's note: The following is a correction and update to an article that ran in Saturday's Enterprise. The Enterprise regrets the error.
Chelsey Lizakowski, 22, of Lake George pleaded guilty to public nuisance, not overwork/mistreatment of animals as reported in the May 12 edition of the Enterprise.
Both charges are misdemeanors. The maximum penalty was $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail.
The public nuisance charge was in connection with barnyard waste leaving her property and flowing into a ditch along the west side of County Road 91 around Sept. 27, 2017.
According to the petition to enter a guilty plea, Lizakowski pleaded guilty to the public nuisance offense with the agreement that the charge of mistreatment of animals will be dismissed. As part of the plea agreement, a probation allegation for a 2016 charge of mistreatment of animals was also "withdrawn and the file closed since the probation period had expired."
Lizakowski was first charged with one count of mistreatment of animals, including deprivation of food and shelter, on April 6, 2016.
According to the statement of probable cause, the Animal Humane Society received "several complaints regarding the welfare of approximately 40-50 horses" on Lizakowski's property, near the intersection of U.S. 71 and County Road 91. Another complaint about the lack of shelter was received April 28, 2016.
An Animal Humane Society investigator and a Hubbard County sheriff's deputy visited the property on April 28, where it was observed there was one pole barn "which was full of equipment, hay and other debris thereby not available for protecting the horses." Four horses were observed to be underweight. The investigator warned a ranch hand that Lizakowski needed to construct an adequate shelter by June 6, 2016.
A Hubbard County sheriff's investigator returned on July 28, 2016, noting the only improvement was a small lean-to capable of providing limited shelter to two horses.
A search warrant was executed Aug. 11, 2016. Investigators confirmed that Lizakowski had "taken no action to provide adequate shelter for the large number of horses under her care."
On Aug. 28, 2016, a veterinarian met with Lizakowski and performed a check on all 40 horses. The vet used a Body Condition Scoring (BCS) to calculate each horse's heath. The score goes from 0 (being dead) to 9 (being perfect). The veterinarian noted any score below 4 is "unacceptable for a horse and is evidence of a lack of food, shelter and/or medical care." According to the statement, of the 40 horses analyzed, the vet gave 75 percent of them a BCA of less than 4.
The vet stated a 4- to 8-month-old Appaloosa had a BCS of 2 and "copious purulent discharge coming from both nostrils." A paint stud also had a body score of 2 and "a large open wound on his right hip." A sorrel paint, which had been pregnant earlier in the spring, had a BCA of 2.5.
According to the statement of probable cause, a check of Lizakowski's criminal history revealed she was charged 11 times from 2013 to 2014 in Marshall County, Minn. for misdemeanor offenses "involving horses getting out and being neglected." On Oct. 28, 2014, Lizakowski was ordered to own no horses in Marshall County for two years.
In Hubbard County, Lizakowski entered a guilty plea on Jan. 9, 2017, which the court noted but did not accept. Instead, she was granted a stay of adjudication for one year. She was placed on court-supervised probation from Jan. 18, 2017 through Jan. 18, 2018 under the conditions that she pay the $200 cost of prosecution, maintain adequate food and shelter for any animals under her care, allow law enforcement or Humane Society personnel onto her property to assure the animals were being properly cared for and remain law abiding. According to this plea agreement, if she complied with these conditions, the matter would be dismissed following the one-year term.
According to the latest statement of probable cause, a Hubbard County Sheriff's deputy received a report of animal neglect on April 29, 2017.
The deputy observed more than 50 horses on Lizakowski's property. He noted that bark was eaten off a significant number of trees, with little hay out for the horses.
The deputy contacted the Animal Humane Society investigator and a veterinarian to assist. The investigator was "quite familiar" with the property and Lizakowski, as he had been to the property several times in 2016. On May 3, the investigator estimated there were 75 to 80 horses and not enough shelter for all of them. There was a newer shelter and an existing one that could shelter 15 to 20, but that left the remaining 50 or so horses without cover during inclement weather.
In the statement of probable cause, the investigator stated "there was hay present and some water, but not nearly enough for the amount of horses" and "no real grass or pasture feed for the horses to browse." He observed that many of the animals were "underweight" and "needed hoof care." Two stallions were also "freely breeding," which could lead to more foals. When asked, Lizakowski said she planned to sell the newborns.
According to the statement, the investigator opined that Lizakowski should be limited to 10 to 15 horses under her care, with no stallions.
The veterinarian issued a report stating she observed 75 to 100 horses, with much more than half without shelter. She also indicated a shortage of hay and poor hay quality. According to the statement, a number of horses displayed clinical signs of lice infestations and had "unacceptable" BCS of 4 and under.
During an announced visit on Aug. 23, 2017, the investigator, deputy and veterinarian found that an additional shelter had not yet been built. Stacks of lumber were present. Lizakowski was advised to build a shelter by Oct. 1 or sell down to 10 to 15 horses.
On Oct. 7, 2017 the investigator received a complaint about lack of shelter or food for Lizakowski's horses.
On Oct. 25, 2017 the investigator and deputy observed more horses on the property. New additions to the barn provided room for only six to eight horses. The barn appeared to be full of equipment, with only two or three stalls for horses. The investigator observed there was still not enough food.
The sheriff's deputy again responded to a complaint that the horses were eating bark off trees and still lacked shelter. On Dec. 28, 2017, the deputy observed 80 horses. No hay was out in the pastures, but some was under a cover. The water containers were frozen.
The case was slated for jury trial on May 9, but the settlement was reached May 6. The plea agreement was signed by Lizakowski, her attorney Darrell Carter and prosecutor Adam Licari, a Hubbard County assistant attorney.
Lizakowski will pay a fine of $185 with surcharge and law library fee. She will be on court-supervised probation for one year. She received a stayed jail sentence of 30 days. By Oct. 1, Lizakowski must have an additional shelter erected for the horses on the property. She also must allow law enforcement, a Humane Society representative or appointed veterinarian onto her property to ensure compliance. Lizakowski must remain law abiding and have no same or similar offense during the probationary period.
"While I don't care to get into the specifics about my cases, I will say that in a situation like this there are many moving parts and reasons why this resolution was viable," Licari said. "The paramount concern in these matters was the well-being of the horses and in this resolution, if Ms. Lizakowski lives up to her probationary obligations, conditions at the farm will improve and the horses will be better off."
Lizakowski and Addison Homstad first established a horse rescue site on the property in 2015, called Healing Hearts and Hooves.