A Park County judge ordered that six horses be returned to their owner, Ron Swift, despite the judge's ruling that Swift continue to face a trial on an animal cruelty citation.
In February, CALL7 Investigators reported misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against Swift. The Sheriff's Office removed the horses because investigators determined they were malnourished.
Swift maintained the horses were sick and suffering from botulism.
Animal Control Officer Bobbi Jo Priestly said in an email, "Her agency had probable cause on the warrant to seize the horses, but the Judge stated that he thought since the owners had a licensed veterinarian treating the horses prior to the seizure we should have left them there."
It is unclear when authorities will return the horses to Swift, but Priestly wrote the Sheriff's Office would be responsible for all the bills and have been ordered to pay the owners back for the care and boarding of horses.
"We will be at the ranch weekly (and) I assure you keeping a close eye on the horses. If the horses start to drop weight we will seize them again," said Priestly,
In the email Priestly questioned the judge and deputy district attorney handling the case "I think the District Attorney should have mentioned the facts of the case better. The fact that Maggie died was only brought up briefly and this should have been driven home. A horse died on the property and Chance the sickest of the six seized was unable to rise without assistance. It was not driven home that the only thing that the horses have been given is food and water to improve. I simply can not believe this has happened."
The Park County Sheriff's Office said several of the horses gained more than 100 pounds in 30 days.
Aspen Creek veterinarian Ashleigh Olds told CALL7 Investigators that this is proof the horses were starving, not ill.
"Based on the evidence, they all gained a tremendous amount of weight once they were removed is also suggestive that there was some role of malnutrition," said Olds.
She said she was disappointed in the judge's ruling Tuesday.
"With the history that there has been confirmed horse deaths on the property, suspected for malnutrition the last few months and that these horses would be in grave danger to return to that similar environment," she said. "I guess that is really surprising to the community and myself."
Park County Judge Brian Green decline to comment on his decision citing it is a pending case.
Swift told CALL7 Investigators that he is happy the horses have been returned.Swift added he's glad to be able to care for them properly with (their own) vets."
He will be back in court on May 15 on the misdemeanor animal cruelty charge.
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