MISSOULA, Mont. - A Missoula woman called NBC Montana after seeing our story on Lake County resident Victoria Templer and her five missing unbranded horses. Those horses are still gone and Templer suspects someone stole them.
Missoula resident Drew Cable had her own missing horse ordeal after her unbranded horse wandered away. She wants to get the word out there that folks who are missing their horses should exhaust all their options in their search for their missing animals.
"Follow up, check, don't take people's word for it," said Cable. Cable went to court to get her missing horse back, and it was a legal battle she'd never thought she'd have to wage. She says she was in the process of moving and put her horse, Annie, in a pasture in the Turah area.
According to her legal complaint, a horse matching Annie's description wandered onto a neighbor's land, and the family bought it to keep.
According to Montana law, when a stray horse is found the Department of Livestock can either have it shipped straight to a livestock market, or hold it for at least 10 days after publishing public notice. Cable's complaint states the Department took Annie, but sold it just five days after the first publication ran.
"Our attorneys also told us an interpretation of that statute can say the notice can go out even after the sale," said Montana Department of Livestock Executive Officer Christian MacKay.
Drew says she also said she had a hard time finding the right announcement, partly because it ran in the Missoula Independent, a small weekly, rather than the Missoulian.
"Both the Missoulian and Missoula Independent were on the list of papers that do county printing, we compared advertising rates and the Independent is cheaper," said MacKay. MacKay also points out that the Department sends out notices about stray horses to County Sheriffs and livestock markets around the state.
MacKay says the Department was compliant in its dealing with Drew's horse, though they opted to settle rather than dealing with a costly court battle. The Department reimbursed the neighbors for Annie, and their attorney fees.
Drew's hope is that folks who find their horses missing will look in unexpected places for their horse and its advertisements, and even pay attention to ads that don't exactly match the description of their horse. Livestock officials, meanwhile, are urging folks to brand their horses to help them be identified and returned.