Philipsburg’s horse sense 

An ongoing legal dispute between Philipsburg officials and a local horse owner has taken a turn for the bizarre. Buster Butler says he purposefully keeps getting himself ticketed in violation of the town’s horse ordinance so he can take his case to a jury trial.

Town attorney Blaine Bradshaw says Philipsburg enacted the 2006 ordinance prohibiting hoofed animals in the town for health reasons and to become more of a tourist destination. He adds that a grandfather clause allows residents to maintain their horses as long as the corral is more than a half-acre.

Butler’s property doesn’t reach the threshold. His wife was cited soon after the ordinance went into effect for a cow the couple kept on the property. Butler says the town dismissed the ticket.

“They don’t want it to go in front of a jury, so they dismissed the tickets against me,” he says. “Then I keep bringing my horses back to the corral and have them issue me another ticket. I’m trying to take it to a jury trial and they won’t let me have due process.”

Bradshaw offers a different take.

“We gave them plenty of time to move the cow,” Bradshaw says. “We cited [Butler], he entered into a deferred prosecution, and then he brought his horses back in. We haven’t seen the cow since.”

A sheriff’s attorney cited Butler for the horses, which Butler refuses to name (he doesn’t want to incriminate them). He contends that the law is unfair.

“I don’t think it’s right because I’ve been around horses all my life,” he says. “My dad was a horseman and he had horses on the same property. They grandfathered other people’s horses in but they didn’t grandfather mine.”

Given his new ticket, Butler’s case is slated for trial. Bradshaw says a date hasn’t been set yet, but it looks as though Butler will finally get his day in court.
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