Animal cruelty case likely headed for plea deal

A case involving animal cruelty is nearing a plea agreement in Hettinger County.

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor
cbenz@countrymedia.net

William Ziegler, 74, and Mary Ziegler, 71, were both charged with felony animal cruelty and animal neglect, a Class A misdemeanor, on Oct. 31, 2016.

A tip to law enforcement lead investigators to a property in Hettinger County. When authorities arrived they found more than 50 animals living harsh living conditions. Court documents said the environment was filthy, covered in feces and urine, and that some animals had died as a result of the environment.

The defendants were not present during the initial search but were arrested when they returned to the property.

The case had previously been headed to a jury trial that had been rescheduled twice, according to court documents. But records show that the latest date had been canceled, and a notice to file a written plea had been submitted.

According to Hettinger County State’s Attorney Aaron Roseland, the case could be finished within a couple of weeks.

Roseland decline to go into detail about the proposed plea agreement because it had not yet been signed by the defendants, and he has reserved his right to still go to trial. But he did say any agreement will bar the duo from any association with animals.

Any settlements, Roseland said, will include a provision that they will not be allowed to own, possess, or be around any animals, livestock or domesticated, during the period of their probation which will be at least three years.

The defendants, who were identified in court documents as residents of Missouri but resided on a property in Hettinger County owned by relatives, faced a possible five years imprisonment and up to $5,000 in fines if convicted of the felony charge and up to one-year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $3,000 if they are convicted of the misdemeanor.