Press Release – Horse Abuse Incident

From the Office of the Sheriff Teton County, Wyoming Sheriff Jim Whalen

Press Release



Horse Abuse Incident

On Tuesday August 8, 2017 at 1730 hours Teton County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to an address in Wilson, WY on the report of Cruelty to Animals.  The report stated a horse was tied down in an inhumane manner.  Deputies found the horse was tied down, interviewed the owner and consulted with veterinary experts and the Wyoming Brand Inspector.  It was determined that while outdated, the methods used were legally accepted.

On Wednesday August 9, 2017 the sheriff’s office received information that the horse in question had died overnight.  Deputies returned to the scene and verified the horse had died.  The owner of the horse was interviewed again and cooperated fully with the deputies.  The owner voluntarily surrendered the carcass for further examination and testing.

A veterinarian collected blood, urine and tissue samples that will be sent to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory for testing to determine a cause of death.

The sheriff’s office is actively investigating the incident to determine if a crime has occurred.

A video of the incident has surfaced on social media and has generated a very emotional reaction.  The sheriff’s office is aware of the video and has obtained a copy as evidence.  While we agree the video elicits a strong emotional response and is difficult to watch, we must investigate the incident in an analytical, fact-based manner.  If the sheriff’s office and the Teton County Attorney’s Office determine there is evidence of a crime, criminal charges will be pursued.

The sheriff’s office has received numerous calls and emails regarding the incident.  Again, we understand the emotionally charged aspect of the incident, but request that only those with direct involvement or witness accounts contact us at this time.  Handling these calls and emails takes important resources away from actively investigating the incident.


Detective Sergeant Todd Stanyon

Teton County Sheriffs Office 180 South King Street P.O. Box 1885

Jackson, WY 83001 307.733.4052


  1. Kathryn A Baker says:

    People all over the country are appalled at the torture and murder of a horse by Forest Stearns. Although the old school method of tying a horse down is “legal”, it is not right. Please see to it that this monster is charged and jailed for this crime. He is not fit to “train” horses or to be an outfitter. Can his outfitter license be revoked? Thank you for listening.

  2. Angie Hins says:

    By Wyoming statute, this case is clearly animal cruelty, not simply “outdated” training technique. I have provided the statute for you in case you would like to review it. As a horseman of 40 years, I am familiar with “old” methods and “new” methods of training. NOBODY would tie a horse down for hours in ANY training method. This is clearly a case of crossing the line beyond training and torture. Need proof? The animal DIED as a result of this abuse. Animals don’t die from properly employed training methods. Please refer to the statute below and investigate this matter properly. With social media readily available, the days of being lazy and sweeping cruelty under the rug because “it’s just an animal” are over. The world is watching and they are horrified by the number of abusers who get no punishment. A person who beats a horse like this will beat his wife, his kids, his neighbors…. By the man’s own claim he was reprimanding the horse for kicking at the farrier. So he tacked up the horse, threw it down and tied it down stretched out for HOURS? What about that teaches the horse ANYTHING about standing quietly for the farrier. NOTHING. Any horseman can tell you that.

    Wyoming Cruelty to Animals Statutes

    TITLE 6. Crimes and Offenses
    CHAPTER 3. Offenses Against Property
    ARTICLE 2. Property Destruction and Defacement

    6-3-203 Cruelty to animals; penalties; limitation on manner of destruction.
    (a) A person commits cruelty to animals if he knowingly and with intent to cause death, injury or undue suffering:
    (i) Overrides, drives when overloaded, tortures or torments an animal or deprives an animal of necessary sustenance; or
    (ii) Unnecessarily or cruelly beats, injures, mutilates or kills an animal; or

    (e) Cruelty to animals is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, a fine of not more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00), or both except that a subsequent offense, or aggravated cruelty to animals as defined by paragraphs (c)(ii), (iv), (v) and (vi) of this section is a high misdemeanor punishable by not more than one (1) year imprisonment, a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000.00), or both.

    (h) If a person convicted of cruelty to animals under this section is also the owner of the animal, the court may require the person to forfeit ownership of the animal to the county in which the person is convicted. This subsection shall not affect the interest of any secured party or other person who has not participated in the offense.

    (j) In addition to any sentence and penalties imposed under subsections (e) and (h) of this section, the court may:

    (i) Require the defendant to pay all reasonable costs incurred in providing necessary food and water, veterinary attention and treatment for any animal affected; and
    (ii) Prohibit or limit the defendant’s ownership, possession or custody of animals, as the court deems appropriate.

    (k) Each animal affected by the defendant’s conduct may constitute a separate count for the purposes of prosecution, conviction, sentencing and penalties under this section.

    TITLE 11. Agriculture, Livestock and Other Animals
    CHAPTER 29. Protection of Domestic Animals

    11-29-101 Definitions.
    (a) As used in this act:

    (i) “Animal” means every living dumb creature;

    (ii) “Owner” or “person” means any individual including the agents and employees of corporations;

    (iii) “Torture,” “torment” or “cruelty” means every act, omission or neglect whereby the willful and malicious infliction of pain or suffering is caused, permitted or allowed to continue when there is a reasonable remedy or relief;

    (iv) “This act” means W.S. 11-29-101 through 11-29-113.

    • Gail L Canny says:

      OMG….thanks so much for this information ! Law enforcement needs to open their eyes to this. You are correct, the world is watching. I am in Texas and I know this story is going viral. Even if the law doesn’t care about enforcing animal cruelty laws maybe they will care about the deep drop in tourism due to vacationers not wanting to spend their dollars in areas that promote cruelty by not enforcing humane laws. I know that until the spotlight is turned onto the ugliness, often times things get ignored.

    • Charles Sadler says:

      So the video is not enough and his comment about teaching or training the horse is not enough to have already arrested this animal abuser? Training techniques or not, this horse was in distress and the owner clearly understood what he was putting this horse through. Is it mot time we put aside all the legal wrangling with the law and call an abuser what he is…an abuser. This horse list his life because Stearns was angry and wanted to take his anger out on a poor defenseless animal. If you Sheriff fail to charge this person with aggravated animal cruelty then you sir are also to blame for the death of an innocent animal because it is the failure of law enforcement and the failure of district attorney’s who do not enforce laws that gives these abusers Carte Blanche because they know they will not face harsh punishment for thier crimes if any at all.

  3. Valerie Cranmer says:

    It is because we have become so emotionally detached that these kinds of cruel and inhumane incidents occur.

  4. Sandra stough says:

    So explain how “The report stated a horse was tied down in an inhumane manner. ” and ” It was determined that while outdated, the methods used were legally accepted.” even make sense!!! So inhumane is legal? What a contradiction!!!! Abuse is abuse no matter how outdated or updated it is!

  5. Please do not make light of this..just because these sick abusive methods were used in the past doesnt make it right ! No legit vet would claim this acceptable for bay animal…Do not cover up this criminal act of animal abuse torture and Death..It is mandatory for the Sheriff to file a report to the FBI concerning this abuse…they Now connect animal abuser cases as possibile serial killers.. Stearns is a vile sick man. Do not protect and cover up what He really is…He Needs to be shut down and prosecuted for this crime !!!

  6. Dolores says:

    Just because something is “legally acceptable” does not make it ethical. There are thousands of old laws on the books that are outdated and unethical. Time to get in the 21 century!

  7. What a inhuman disgraceful regard for a living thing.
    Teton County Sheriff’s Dept. imagine putting yourself in the same place this as the mule who endured in unimaginable pain and suffering. Chained and stretch out by the front and hind legs and then having a tarp thrown over you with pounding rain.
    This is not how you train any Equine.
    There is no real Equine horse trainer who trains Equines in this barbaric way. No trains Equines in this fashion. Only mean and distrub individuals treat animals with no regard for life.
    He tortured this mule with hatred and no compassion and he enjoyed it.
    People who do this shouldn’t be allowed to own or have any Equine in their possession.
    This is a animal crime of cruelty, abuse and neglect.
    There’s a epidemic in the U.S of animal cruelty out of control and it’s time to make individuals accountable for their actions. No state, Federal or County doesn’t want to enforce laws or charge individuals for animals crimes.
    Not prosecuting and enforcing laws or charges individuals know they can get away with not being accountable.
    Individuals will do it again and again.
    Animal crimes issue continues to grow.

  8. Mary Sullivan says:

    I can’t believe that anyone could question whether this is acceptable. Sheriff, may I direct you to your own website where you proudly display this statement:
    “Honor, integrity and respect will never be betrayed. I will always hold myself and others accountable for having the courage to do the right thing.”
    It impossible to mistake this man’s “intent” for something other than what it was. This horse died on your watch. According to your own press release it indicates that your department came to the scene, called a brand inspector, and then left the man to torture the animal until he died. The very least that you can do now is to see to it that this man can’t do anything like this to another horse. Investigating without emotion doesn’t mean without common sense. If you called someone who said beating a human to death is still practiced in some places, would you let such a crime go unpunished in your county? Please show your value as a sheriff and work a little harder than calling a brand inspector to see if other people have done this.

  9. Dèverra Biandaesçû says:

    This is one of the most appalling acts of animal cruelty I have seen in quite sometime. This man is psychotic and seriously needs to be treated as such. Is the state of Wyoming fostering such behavior? Has this individual been testing his barbaric acts upon humans too? He seems to know all the aspects of torturing a helpless being.

  10. Gail L Canny says:

    I guarantee you the rest of the country is aware of this as this story has gone viral. Animal Cruelty is animal cruelty ! Your reputation as law enforcement is at stake ! If you aren’t motivated by treating animals properly and humanely perhaps you will be motivated when your tourism drops due to this viral story all over the internet.

    • Dia says:

      We are watching from Canada too. It’s going to go all over the world. No one wants an animal to die from “training” no matter how legal that might be under some narrow interpretation of the law. Cruelty to animals is illegal in Canada and I would lay money it’s illegal in the U.S. too.

  11. Pat Dupree says:

    In the End when all are compelled to give account of his life in truth , each of us needs to be able to say we helped stop cruelty wherever it existed . The victim of Forest Stearns will sit with his Creator while Mr Stearns admits what he did and is turned away .

    According to ur own mission statement , u will find fairness for this horse . I have to believe u are a man of ur word and office .

  12. Alexandra Daly says:

    How can you possibly watch the video and not arrest that man. It is shameful and really gives the Jackson Hole Sheriff’s department a bad name. I live in Connecticut and this story is everywhere. It’s incredibly disappointing that in this day and age those who are sworn to protect and enforce our laws can sit by and allow this to happen.

  13. Shirley wrightcoltart says:

    It’s pretty obvious sheriff that the world is so changing about animal cruelty. You poor people who call this sheriff office for help and they determine this is normal allowed behavior. Your whole staff needs to be fired for not assisting but cowardly saying no it’s ok permissable. Wow!!! I actually emailed this forest guy from his website inquiring exactly what he was trying to teach this horse. The arrogant ass replied he hoped if I cam across a dangerous horse he hoped it kicked my teeth in. Let’s keep the pressure on and totally ruin his business. No more money for him. The horse had the audacity to actually die therefore taking away amy more ” fun ” so the horse really won you sob. So glad you are so proud of yourself. You are a fool and I sure hope you get what’s coming to you!!!

  14. Nicki Branch says:

    Since WHEN is TORTURE considered a misdemeanor???? you red necked good ole boys????!!!!!! TORTURE of a horse is NOT a misdemeanor!!! ENFORCE the law of cruelty and TORTURE by this cretin.

  15. Thank you so much for the hard work, compassion and energy that you are putting into the Forest Stearns horse case. I write to demand this case receive a thorough investigation.

    As an animal professional and business owner, I don’t subscribe to some of the techniques and disciplines that are deemed lawful to perform in our state. However, I am a law-respecting citizen and understand the methods that are the commonly accepted practice in Wyoming.

    Forest Stearns methods exceeded Wyoming accepted practices and what he did was unlawful. I wanted to voice a few concerns as a animal lover, and citizen of this community. Thank you so much for your ear.

    After Mr. Stearns told the sheriff to “call my vet,” his veterinarian, without seeing the scene and over the phone, confirmed that this was “normal practice.” The sheriff then left the premises. Having not witnessed the practice, this seems like negligent determination on the veterinarians behalf? ​Furthermore, isn’t asking Forest’s long-time veterinarian (and likely friend) this question a conflict of interest?

    Apart from veterinarian confirmation and with all due respect to the Sheriff’s Department, I do not understand why the sheriff did not make an evaluation on this horse. One need not be a horse professional to determine that this horse was under a tremendous amount of distress; laying in a pool of sweat, fully tacked up, thrashing and bleeding.

    Contrary to what the sheriff saw and dismissed and Dr. Theo’s response, witnesses, pictures and video, tell a much different story. An expert vet witness can attest to the physiological responses a horse experiences when laying down. Blood flow is prevented to areas of the body and organs because of the weight, circulation is impaired, lungs pool with blood and getting up can cause reperfusion injury.

    ​The topic of Animal science​/ behavior surfaces when discussing ​t​raining practices and methods​. ​Horses are flight, prey animals. The cruelty​ of punishment​ ​and anger (which is not a training method at all​​), used in this case, ​is undue injury​​​​​​. Forest Stearns may use some initial training tactic​, h​owever,​ ​Forest is then adding barbaric and torturous acts to this “method”. ​ ​We must stop referring to his behavior towards horses as “training methods” and recognize that they are ​intentional​​ acts​ of cruelty under the law.

    Furthermore, public records show two dismissed cases in 2011 and 2012, of violence. Neighbors have seen other incidents with Mr. Stearns and have sometimes called in cases (a mule abuse report in 2015), however, other incidents went unreported, due to fear of this man. I hope that the calls to service log will be a part of this case. Neighbors should be contacted to see what else they may have witnessed in his recent past.

    ​To my understanding, witnesses have come forth and not been followed up with from the sheriff’s office for statements. ​
    In addition, there is a well documented and established connection between human battery and animal abuse. The two often go hand in hand, as seems to be the case with Mr Stearns. If this man can inflict this injury on an animal, he can, and indeed has, inflicted it upon people in our community.

    Animal cases first must be reflected in the face of the law. Second, in addition to the fact that this man’s behavior rises to the level of animal cruelty, we must also acknowledge that this horse deserves a voice. This horse died because this man overstepped the boundaries of the law. Our community is haunted by the images and the fact this is happening near a playground in a neighborhood, in plain site. This is not an isolate one-off event in this man’s history, it is a pattern in his life. Failure to prosecute his behavior sends the message that this County condones what he did, and will surely lead to more abuse of people and animals in the future.

    Thank you so much for caring for the safety of our community, as well as the animals in it.

    • Martha Anderson says:

      Lindsay, Thank you so much for that well written and informed letter to the sheriff. Please post your letter on Facebook’s Justice for Horses of Stearns Outfitters. It is excellent.

  16. Kelly says:

    In regards to the horse that was being abused and that’s exactly what I saw a horse in agonizing distress,I’m sure it was in great pain while moving and pulling on those ropes, how awful if must have been for him and I’m sorry I have trained a lot of horses and have had a few sedated for one thing or another obviously Mr Stearns did not know what he was doing as far as sedating that horse it didn’t look sedated to me it looked like animal cruelty to me and this isn’t this mans first time, something needs to be done!

  17. Marie says:

    His lawyer pleaded not guilty, so what is the Teton Sheriff doing about the animal torturing behind closed doors? Possibly at this very minute, makes me sick. The man is a threat to us all. Why hasn’t the Sheriff’s Department done nothing in regards to past calls on this evil man? Is this man above the law, the truth must and will be uncovered!!

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