Community feed donations are coming in for confiscated livestock in an alleged animal cruelty case in Hamilton. Sheriff's deputies seized the animals from a westside farm after numerous complaints they weren't being properly fed and cared for.
Chancy Ralls of Hamilton faces felony animal cruelty charges. Ralls is an older man, who reportedly is having serious health problems.
Sheriff's deputies, with help from the Bitterroot Humane Association and volunteers, seized 17 head of cattle, 3 donkeys, a horse, more than 20 sheep, 2 yaks and numerous poultry.
Eleven head of cattle and the yaks are corralled at the fairgrounds. So are the sheep. The fair manager bought hay to tide them over when they first arrived.
Feed donations are coming in now.
Deborah Rogala said her office has been getting dozens of calls.
"They're looking for foster homes," said Rogala, "so they have been inquiring as to how to go about that process, and then we've had lots of folks calling us and giving us offers of feed."
Bitterroot Brewing in Hamilton donated spent grain, a byproduct of making beer. The animals took to it right away.
"These animals will need more than just these spent grains," said Bitterroot Brewing's general manager, Jason Goeltz, "but it is certainly a nutritious supplement."
Goeltz said Chancy Ralls used to pick up the byproduct to feed his livestock. Court documents said Ralls failed to provide a sufficient quantity or quality of feed to sustain the animals.
Deputies said two cows died on the farm. Complaints said other animals were in bad condition.
Michael Cembalski is a hog farmer who loaded Bitterroot Brewings' barley mash to the fairgrounds. Cembalski is Ralls' neighbor and friend. Ralls loved and cared for his animals, said Cembalski.
"He's a hardworking man," he said. "This is an unfortunate situation. He's not a cruel human being. He's a wonderful person. Let's face it -- it was a hard winter."
Cembalski said the last time he saw his friend he looked to be in failing health.
He said Ralls spent years raising exotic animals.