Some cases involve quite a bit of sleuth work. And, in some of the cases humane investigators seem to meet up with the same people over and over again. “That’s one of the frustrations of the job,” according to Wade. “The present legislation is not strong enough to keep repeat offenders from going back at it.”
In 2006, the Animal Humane Society received a complaint from a private citizen about horses that were being neglected in Chisago County. Wade Hanson opened the case and visited the property in Rush City, MN and left notice for the owner, Tracy Bratlie to contact him. During the first days of the investigation the owner moved the horses repeatedly to hide them from authorities. Unfortunately, this tactic worked.
In 2007 AHS received a second complaint against this same owner. This investigation revealed that there were horses once again on the Chisago County property as well as on an additional property in Kanabec County—all horses traced to owner, Tracy Bratlie.
Wade left a violation notice for the owner at the property in Chisago County and at the property in Kanabec County. This informs the recipient that they must call the Animal Humane Society within a certain time period or their animals may be seized. After not hearing from Bratlie for over a week, Wade obtained a warrant and brought a veterinarian, law enforcement, and representatives from Minnesota Hoofed Animal Rescue to seize the horses on the Chisago County property.
Yet, once again the horses from the Chisago County property had been moved by Tracy Bratlie. However, several days later, a total of 15 horses were seized in Kanabec County. During the investigation it was discovered she owned an additional property—this one in Isanti County.
In a “cat and mouse” game the owner had tried to hide the horses once again, says Wade. “We discovered the horses from the Chisago County property and five horses from the Kanabec County property had now been moved to the Isanti County property.”
Because of the dire condition of the horses that were moved and hidden on the Chisago and Kanabec properties to the Isanti County property, Wade worked with the Isanti officials to issue a warrant and eight additional horses were seized. (The Chisago County horses had already been moved when the investigation began.)
Horses are rated on a scale of 1-9 when assessing the health of the animal. A “body score” of 1-3 indicates dangerous levels of undernourishment; while a score of 7-9 indicates dangerous levels of overfeeding and obesity. The veterinarian rated the horses from 1-3, with several horses displaying not only visible ribs, but also the rib shelf, withers, and tail bone. These were emaciated horses, with little or no chance of thriving without intervention.
The horses stayed with Minnesota Hoofed Animal Rescue until suitable homes were found. All but two of the horses were able to come back from their gaunt and neglected state. Most, fortunately, have found new homes.
Assistant Kanabec County Attorney Reese Frederickson, charged Tracy Bratlie with six counts of animal cruelty, including the neglect of animals, the mistreatment of animals, the deprivation of nourishment to horses, and deprivation of food and shelter to horses. In Kanabec County she was convicted of five of the six counts, and awaits sentencing. She is now awaiting trial in Isanti County.
Wade says this is a case that required requiring investigation, diligence and cooperation with several local law enforcement agencies for more than two years. “Since she was convicted in Kanabec with the lesser charges, I am confident that the outcome in Isanti will keep her from owning horses for a long time,” he says. “This one has a good outcome. The animals deserve a good outcome.”