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Animal cruelty convict arrested again for having horses in backyard

BISMARCK – A man convicted of animal cruelty and mistreatment in the deaths of more than 100 horses was arrested Monday after a search of his north Fargo residence uncovered a horse and a mule in his backyard -– his second alleged probation violation in the past three weeks.

Morton County Sheriff Dave Shipman said 64-year-old William Kiefer was arrested by North Dakota Parole and Probation Services for allegedly violating the terms of his probation, which forbid him from owning or possessing livestock.

Kiefer was booked into the Cass County Jail at 11:15 a.m. and was being held without bond Monday afternoon. Shipman said he was working with Cass County authorities to have Kiefer brought back to Morton and Burleigh counties, where he will face amended petitions to revoke his probation.

“It’s almost like a slap in the face to the system,” he said.

Kiefer’s attorney, Scott Hager of Bismarck, did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

Meanwhile, authorities have located the horse that Kiefer allegedly bought for $2,000 on July 29 from a woman in Powell, Wyo., which prompted a Morton County prosecutor to file the original petition to revoke Kiefer’s probation.

Shipman said Kiefer delivered that horse and a second mare to a boarding-type facility in Montana. Both mares are safe, and the man who runs the facility didn’t know of Kiefer’s past when he accepted the horses, Shipman said.

“He has confirmed that they’re there, and he is very helpful to us,” he said.

The Morton County and Burleigh County state’s attorneys are discussing whether to have the horses seized, Shipman said.

“Again, it’s not a crime for him to own them. It’s just that he’s violating his probation,” he said.

In January 2013, authorities confiscated 157 horses from Kiefer and found 99 horses dead on his properties in Morton and Burleigh counties. Three of the seized horses were so weak they later died.

Kiefer pleaded guilty in December to five counts of cruelty to animals in Morton County and four counts of overworking, mistreating or abandoning animals in Burleigh County, all Class A misdemeanors.

The case garnered national attention and spurred state lawmakers to pass a law making it a Class C felony to intentionally torture or mutilate an animal or break its bones.

Kiefer was sentenced Dec. 31 to one year in jail, with six months suspended during two years of supervised probation that began Jan. 7. He served the other six months on electronic home monitoring in Fargo, completing that part of his sentence July 7.

Prosecutors filed a petition Aug. 6 seeking to revoke Kiefer’s probation, alleging he violated the terms by purchasing the horse in Wyoming and by failing to follow through with court-ordered mental health services. Authorities took Kiefer into custody Aug. 7 in Fargo.

During his appearances last week in South Central Judicial District court, judges in Morton County and Burleigh County set Kiefer’s bond at 10 percent of $7,000, or $700. He posted the $700 bond after the court hearing Aug. 11 in Morton County and was released from Burleigh County the next day after Judge Bruce Haskell agreed to leave the bond amount unchanged. Haskell ordered that Kiefer couldn’t leave the state without court permission except for work purposes.

Kiefer’s son is trying to find a place for the animals found Monday in his Fargo backyard, Shipman said, noting it’s illegal to keep horses within Fargo city limits.

“He’s working on a place for them where they won’t be in Kiefer’s care and custody,” he said.

The sheriff said he was baffled by the case.

“I almost wonder if this guy is not a horse hoarder,” he said.

Shipman said Kiefer would likely be transported to the Morton County Detention Center today and appear in court today or Wednesday.

Kiefer’s probation revocation hearing is scheduled for Sept. 19 in Burleigh County.

Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.