ARGUSVILLE, N.D. — After years of complaints and the deaths of two horses in December, state and local authorities are conducting an animal welfare investigation at a Cass County property where the owner has long attracted criticism for the conditions in which he keeps his horses.

Amid further recent concerns about the property, which is on the west side of Interstate 29 about 15 miles north of Fargo, the Cass County Sheriff's Office and officials with the state animal health division conducted a search about 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, after obtaining a warrant, according to a news release.

The property belongs to Dean Goehring, who was charged in 2011 with livestock running at large when one of his horses was spotted loose near a highway, The Forum reported. In December 2019, he was fined $50 for an animal control ordinance violation after two horses escaped from his property through a broken fence and were struck by cars on I-29 and County Road 34. One had to be euthanized by its owner and the other died after being hit by a car.

In a video statement posted online late Monday night, Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said his office received several anonymous calls about a horse on the property left in the bitter cold. Deputies checked on the animal without going on the property, and it appeared the horse's basic needs for food and shelter were met. Jahner said this assessment was based off information from the North Dakota Stockmen's Association.

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While checking on the property and the well-being of the horse Monday — the last Goehring owned following the December incident — authorities found the fencing surrounding the property was in disrepair, posing a possible safety risk for the horse and drivers on nearby roads. Snow had accumulated along the fences, which could have allowed the horse to escape.

Officials with the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association found there was an inadequate water supply, though there was enough water in snow and food for the horse to survive, and a veterinarian on scene said the horse's health was in remarkably good condition, according to Jahner.

The property, which has long been described as an “eyesore,” had attracted complaints about its cluttered appearance since Goehring acquired the 4.8-acre plot between Argusville and Gardner for $900 in 2002, according to Forum archives. Goehring, who worked in the past as a surgical technician at Sanford Health in Fargo, told reporters in multiple stories spanning nearly a decade that he had plans to clean it up.

When Goehring brought horses to the property in 2006, most of the complaints turned to those of animal neglect, often when the horses would wander through fencing and onto nearby highways. At one point, he had eight horses on the property, though that number has fluctuated over the years.

Jahner said in the video that while his office had been dispatched to the property over the years for complaints of neglect, the owner had never been found to be neglecting the horses. He has, however, been cited for violating animal ordinances when his horses have escaped the property.

Attempts to reach Goehring by phone Tuesday night were unsuccessful.

The sheriff’s office said officials told Goehring the conditions on his property posed a danger to his horse and offered him three days to fix the issues. Goehring said the horse was well taken care of but that he didn't know how he would fix problems with the fence. Jahner said in his statement that Goehring then told law officers that he planned to euthanize the horse, though officials told him they would help relocate the horse if he wanted.

Jahner said he and another investigator spent about 15 minutes trying to convince Goehring to let the Cass County Sheriff's Office relocate the horse, but that the owner said "there was no way" they would be able to get the horse off the property with snow in the way.

Jahner added that attempts to reach the North Dakota State University Equine Center Monday were unsuccessful as it was closed, and that the North Dakota Stockmen's Association needed a few days to make new arrangements for the horse.

Out of continued concern, authorities served a second search warrant on the property Tuesday morning and discovered that the horse was dead, the sheriff’s office said. Goehring told law officers he had put down the horse. Lt. Tim Briggeman with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office said it was too early in the investigation to say how the horse was put down.

Briggeman said the warrants and investigation come amid public concerns about a horse on Goehring’s property and worry among law enforcement officials after the horse was spotted in a recent severe winter storm.

The sheriff’s office will hand the case over to the Cass County State’s Attorney once the investigation is complete, he said, adding that as of Tuesday evening the agency had not yet decided what charges it will recommend.