Bond set at $125,000 for animal abuse suspect in Yellowstone County | Local News
A Billings man pleaded not guilty Friday to a long list of animal abuse charges after county investigators found numerous dogs shot and others suffering from neglect on an apparently used Yellowstone County property as breeding.
Michael James Bigelow, 34, was arraigned in Yellowstone County District Court and faces four aggravated felonies of animal cruelty and nine misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. District Court Judge Ashley Harada set his bond at $125,000, more than double the recommendation from county prosecutors.
“I have serious concerns about this individual,” Harada said.
Animal control and other Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office investigators entered a property south of Billings on Bender Road on March 3, charging documents show, after a resident complained of dogs loose antagonizing his horse. A sweep of the property revealed more than a dozen put down dogs and many more mutilated and starving. The majority of the dead dogs had been shot in the head and left to rot on the property. Investigators found a dog that was shot twice but still alive. A veterinarian brought to the scene humanely euthanized the animal the same day.
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Yellowstone County Animal Control had previously met with owner Carrie Ann Bigelow in January. She told law enforcement that she took over a livestock guard dog kennel on the nearly 35-acre property after her husband died. She is the mother of Michael Bigelow.
In March, investigators found dogs of various breeds and sexes locked up or chained up and without access to food or water. One animal had been shot in the stomach and bled to death, two others were found alive but covered in mud and infested with fleas, according to court documents. Also on the property were herded horses, one of which was dead and showing signs of partial consumption, and starving sheep kept in a pen.
Officers asked Michael Bigelow, who was an animal control officer located in a hut, to stay away from the property while they completed their investigation. He reportedly spat insults and threats at law enforcement and his mother when she arrived at the scene. He was arrested the same day on outstanding warrants. While in custody at the Yellowstone County Detention Center, prosecutors allege he continued his threats against deputies in phone conversations with his mother.
Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder was on hand for the inquest and brought a 1,200 pound bale of hay to feed the malnourished animals. He told The Gazette on Friday that the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter had taken in 19 dogs from the property for additional care.
The sheriff’s office has a contract with the shelter to house all dogs picked up by animal control, Linder said. In 2019, the shelter accepted more than 40 cats captured by animal control who were living in unhealthy and inhumane living conditions at a Billings home, the Gazette previously reported.
“It is certainly one of the greatest [animal rescues] that we’ve seen in a few years,” Linder said.
Linder said the horses and sheep remained on the property, but animal control made return visits to ensure their health. For livestock facilities in the county, welfare checks only take place after a complaint is filed.
Employees of the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter could not be contacted by the Gazette, but the 19 dogs in their care are considered evidence in the charges against Bigelow and are not available for adoption, according to a published article. on social networks. However, the shelter is currently at capacity and is reducing adoption fees for other dogs to $25 over the weekend.
For each aggravated animal cruelty felony, Bigelow could be sentenced to up to two years in prison and fined $2,500. Each count of animal cruelty is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
During his arraignment on Friday, Judge Harada demanded that Bigelow stop contacting his mother and any other witnesses. She also demanded that he be monitored by GPS, if he had to post bail.
“You must also have no contact with animals of any kind,” she said.