One of two people accused of hoarding cats and dogs under deplorable conditions on a Yellowstone County property pleaded guilty Friday to aggravated animal abuse.
Jeremy Patrick Opie, 35, admitted to depriving more than a dozen animals of food, water and healthcare. Some of the animals were emaciated, diseased and showed signs of physical abuse. A co-defendant in the case against Opie, Tiffany Dyce Opie, is still awaiting trial.
Along with pleading guilty to animal abuse, Jeremy Opie admitted in Yellowstone County District Court to failing to register as a sexual offender. He appeared in court via teleconference from Yellowstone County Detention Facility after violating the conditions of his release set earlier this summer. During Friday’s hearing, District Judge Ashley Harada allowed Opie’s release from custody until his sentencing, but warned she would not hesitate to revoke his release.
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“As far as I’m concerned, you are one of the most dangerous people in this community,” she said.
In early June 2023, court documents said, deputies with the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call from a Billings veterinary clinic. Jeremy Opie, with Tiffany Opie, had brought a cat to the clinic with a litter of seven kittens who were malnourished. A clinic staff member told a deputy Opie also brought in a dog, who was in a similar emaciated state, before leaving in a pickup truck.
Jeremy and Tiffany Opie returned to the clinic, according to court documents, and a deputy met the two at their truck. The truck reeked of feces and rotten meat. The deputy found at least six dogs and two cats inside the truck. All of them showed signs of starvation. Jeremy and Tiffany Opie told the deputy they’d been trying to get their animals to eat.
An officer with the Billings Police Department Animal Control advised getting all of the animals out of the truck and evaluated by the clinic. Although Jeremy and Tiffany Opie initially accused the deputy of trying to take away their animals, they eventually agreed to give them to the veterinary staff.
One dog, an 11-month-old Great Dane mix named Finn, had to be euthanized. Staff had to bring him into the clinic on a stretcher. Following a necropsy, a veterinarian determined Finn’s body was almost completely emaciated and had evidence of trauma.
An employee at one of the local animal shelters that took in the animals found in the truck reported to YCSO that Opie was on a “no-adopt list.” Opie had previously adopted an Akita mix, who was later found chained up outside a camper, court documents said.
While YCSO was investigating the case against Opie, they discovered he was a sex offender who failed to report his most recent address to the sheriff’s office, per Montana law. In 2006, according to state records, Opie was sentenced in Fergus County for sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl.
Jeremy and Tiffany Opie were charged with aggravated animal cruelty, a felony, while Jeremy Opie faced an additional count of failing to register as a sex offender. They were released from custody after pleading not guilty.
In September, the two again entered YCDF under suspicion of violating the conditions of their release, which included they have no contact with any animals. Two people reported seeing Jeremy and Tiffany Opie near a dog park in the Heights. They witnessed Tiffany Opie dragging a small dog by a choke collar into a truck, court documents said, while Jeremy Opie was punching a Rottweiler in the head.
The two were subsequently arrested, and Jeremy Opie agreed to speak with law enforcement, according to court documents. He allegedly said Tiffany Opie had been buying animals through Facebook or her friends and family, then bringing them to their trailer. When Jeremy Opie agreed to let officers search the trailer, court documents said, they found three dogs, one of them a Rottweiler mix, several cats, a parakeet and a large python. The floor of the trailer was allegedly cluttered with trash and feces.
Jeremy Opie remained in custody on a $100,000 bond until his change of plea hearing Friday. He reached an agreement with county prosecutors in late September. In exchange for admitting to aggravated animal abuse and failing to register as a sex offender, prosecutors will recommend he serve seven years with the Montana Department of Corrections, all of which would be suspended. His sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.
Tiffany Opie is scheduled for trial later this month. Along with aggravated animal abuse, she is facing counts of attempting to tamper with evidence and criminal contempt.