6 months later, non-profit moves forward after barn fire kills 13 horses

Posted at 9:24 PM, Oct 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-08 05:31:40-04

LOWELL, Mich. – Six months after a barn fire killed 13 therapy horses at the Barn for Equine Learning, people are donating their time and money to rebuild the non-profit from the ground up.

Kat Welton, President at the Barn for Equine Learning, says she’s still coping with the loss of her 13 horses that died in the fire April 8th. Investigators say Payton Mellema, a next-door neighbor to the farm, admitted to chaining the barn doors closed from the inside before setting it on fire. He was charged in September with 3rd degree arson and animal cruelty.

“We woke up to the barn on fire and it was pretty much gone by the time we’d gotten out there,” Welton said. “I’ve had some of those horses since I was 14, I’m now 33.”

Kat says even though she’s had time to grieve, it’s not easy rising from the ashes. Saying it’s the overwhelming support from the community that keeps her moving forward. Volunteers have since donated seven mini-horses to help get Kat back on her feet. Others are boarding their horses at the farm, allowing Kat to use them in her therapy sessions.

Others have shown up with a hammer and nails, ready to help rebuild the barn that was burned to the ground. The new one will have 14 stalls with a higher roof capable of storing extra hay.

As for Mellema, he’s expected back in court at the end of October for sentencing. He could spend up to 14 years in prison if convicted on both charges.

If you’re interested in helping the Barn for Equine Learning, click here for more information.