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A Gallatin County woman was sentenced to probation this week for several charges of animal cruelty after law enforcement found dead and malnourished animals on a property near Clarkston in December.

Elissa Nichol Cline was given four years of probation and is required to complete 100 hours of community service, according to prosecutors. During her probation, she is prohibited from having animals and is subject to searches to ensure she’s in compliance.

Cline pleaded guilty Wednesday in Gallatin County Justice Court to four misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals.

Prosecutors agreed to drop four other misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals. Each charge could have carried up to one year in prison and up to a $1,000 fine.

Prosecutor Erin Murphy said Cline forfeited all animals involved in the case to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. She said a dog went to Heart of the Valley and horses were placed into foster homes under the supervision of the sheriff’s office.

In December, a Gallatin County Sheriff’s sergeant found a dead horse under a tarp at a property on Juniper Road after a caller reported seeing the animal, according to charging documents.

The next day an animal control officer told the sergeant that Cline’s mother rents the property and allows Cline to keep horses there. The animal control officer also reported that Cline posted on Facebook about the animals dying on her property, claiming someone was poisoning them, court documents say.

Cline told the sergeant that another horse had died in November and that she was concerned that someone was poisoning them because both horses displayed similar behaviors, court documents say.

Cline allowed officers to inspect the animals and said the horse had seizures before it died, police said. Cline told officers that in the last few months three other horses and a dog on the property had died under similar circumstances

Police said in charging documents that the horses were in poor health. The dead horse under the tarp had a gunshot wound and did not appear to be poisoned, court documents say.

The next day, officers returned to the property with a veterinarian to evaluate the animals and asked Cline if she’d voluntarily surrender the animals. She refused.

The veterinarian reported all the horses were in poor health and a dog on the property was up to 40 pounds underweight, court documents say. The veterinarian reported the horses’ pasture had no grass for them to graze and there was no evidence of hay for “a significant period of time.”

The sergeant later learned that a horse had been dumped at the Logan Landfill, which was determined to be the horse found under the tarp at Cline’s mother’s property, court documents say.

Officers seized six horses and a dog. They were taken to All West Veterinary Hospital where a veterinarian said it would take “several months of starvation” for the horses to reach their condition.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.

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