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Minn. Farmer 'Shocked' After Horses Put Down By State Patrol


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Minnesota State Patrol had to put down two horses after they got away from their Faribault farm early Monday morning. They'd been trying to get the horses back onto their property when they say the situation just became too unsafe. But, as can be imagined, the horses' owner is very upset -- and has to foot the bill.

Suzette Clemens didn't even realize her quarter horses, Roper and Frenchie, had escaped when a tree fell on her electric fence, until a Rice County deputy showed up at her door in the middle of the night. He told her the horses had to be euthanized.

"I was shocked, shocked, you know," she said. "They didn't even spend more than 19 minutes trying to catch them."

Around 2 a.m. Monday, the horses made it to Interstate 35 near Mile Marker 55 in Faribault, a couple hundred yards from Clemens' home. When Rice County Deputy Jason Witt first arrived, minutes after the call, he said one horse was on the side of the road and the other was on the freeway. He said once a State Trooper arrived, they unsuccessfully tried to get the 1,100-pound animals back over a 5-foot-high fence. Witt said there were some near-misses with trucks when the horses crossed into the lanes of traffic.

"It was chaotic, I guess, that's the best way to describe it," Witt said.

Witt said the brown horses were hard to see in the dark and got more and more agitated as the minutes went on. At one point, one of the horses kicked his squad after the noise of a semi slamming its brakes.

"It's obviously a situation that we recognize will be tragic for the owners of the horses," said Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol. "It's not something we take lightly, but at 2 in the morning, in the dark, it's really just a matter of time before something happens that ends in death or injury to a motorist."

As for using a tranquilizer on the large animals, Roekse said, "We're not vets, we don't have the capability to do that."

Clemens questioned why troopers or deputies didn't try to stop traffic.

"I've seen people stop traffic for a turkey on a highway, why didn't they do that," she asked. "Why didn't they come get me. It just takes 10 minutes to walk here."

Roeske said interstates are dangerous enough in the middle of the night. He recounted a story about a trooper hitting a horse last year and ending up seriously injured.

"We've seen firsthand how damaging and dangerous it can be," he said. "At two o'clock in the morning, in the pitch dark, it becomes a very dangerous situation for everyone involved."

About 20 minutes after the first call came in, the state trooper, along with the deputies present, decided it would be best to put the horses down. The trooper shot the horses with his rifle in the median.

"It's a horrible, horrible thing," said Clemens. "They're part of your family. It isn't like they're a cow."

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Clemens will be held responsible for the removal of the horses in the median.

Clemens said she expects a bill sometime within the year and her insurance company will not be able to cover any of it.

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