UPDATE: Electrical pole fall may have spooked horse, causing dea - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: Electrical pole fall may have spooked horse, causing death



A Bremer County woman's horse may have died after it was spooked by a falling electrical pole on the property, though two other electric fence ropes had been broken on other parts of the property, the Bremer County Sheriff's Office said Friday.

Deputy Brian Davison said sheriff's deputies returned to the property of Melissa Happel in rural Sumner on Thursday, a a day after KWWL's initial report on the death of her horse and two days after deputies had first been to the property to investigate a horse release.

Davison said deputies had not been aware that a horse had died or that Happel suspected suspicious activity until the KWWL report Wednesday, he said Friday.

On Thursday, Davison said deputies made follow-up contact with the Oelwein Veterinary Clinic and at the scene, where they found two other electric fence ropes that were broken besides the one the electric pole had fallen on.

Davison said deputies did not find footprints or vehicle tracks and could not examine the horse's remains.

"The Bremer County Sheriff's Deputy was not able to locate any evidence of any human or animal intervention that would have caused the horse's death," Davison said in the release. "There were no founded reports of suspicious vehicles or people in the area during that time."

Davison noted that anyone with information related to the incident should call the Bremer County Sheriff's Office at (319) 352-5400.


On Tuesday morning, Melissa Happel found that six of her show horses had escaped overnight.

She managed to round up most of the horses, and called the sheriff. But one horse, named Prince, was still missing.

A deputy from Bremer County came soon after to have a look around. He said a pole had fallen over the fence, allowing the horses to escape.

But Happel suspects otherwise. She thinks that someone was there tampering with the fence – and the animals.

Later that afternoon, they found Prince in the woods behind the pasture.

"He was fighting for his life starting then," Happel said. "I suppose he tried walking towards us and he just did somersaults."

The horse was gasping for breath, dangerously overheated. They called Dr. Ken McDonough of the Oelwein Veterinary Clinic, but there was nothing he could do.

A few hours later, Prince was dead.

"The cause of death would have been hyperthermia -- body temperature getting too warm due to some type of exertion -- which could be caused by struggling for a long period of time or being chased to the point of exhaustion," said McDonough.

Happel isn't sure what happened, but she said that some sections of fence surrounding the horses' pasture were removed in the night. She said a section looked like it was broken from the outside, so it's not likely the animals escaped on their own.

But the sheriff's department said their initial investigation found no footprints in the area, or any evidence of tampering.

The Bremer County Sheriff was very clear that they'll continue to follow this, and that he feels his deputy made the right choice at the time with the limited information available to him.

But now Happel just wants something done in the face of what she calls animal cruelty.

"I want answers," she said. "Why? What would make you do this to an animal?"

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