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Rancher, Sheriff Clash over Seized Horses

July 24, 2017

Bob Price


Source …..

A North Dakota rancher is battling to keep custody of his horses after the county sheriff, a discredited veterinarian, and an anonymous call from an out-of-state person rained down the unconstitutional seizure of his animals, he says. He now faces animal neglect and abuse criminal charges, including a felony charge.

This dispute arises out of laws passed in the North Dakota legislature in 2012 after lobbying from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF).

Rancher Gary Dassinger, who is also a licensed clinical social worker, has raised constitutional objections to the actions taken by the sheriff’s office, as well as the application of the state’s law that became effective in 2013.

A preliminary hearing in the criminal prosecution is scheduled for July 31.

In April, a Stark County deputy sheriff came to the Dassinger ranch and said they had been notified that there were dead and “thin” animals on the ranch. The Dassingers later learned that the complaint came from a person who had never been to his ranch and did not live in North Dakota.

Protect the Harvest, an organization that protects the rights of farmers, ranchers, and hunters, explains the circumstances surrounding the death of the three animals, including one due to electrocution. The article details that the animals did not die from abuse, malnourishment, or other neglect. The Protect the Harvest website also noted the proximity of the winter’s end.

Stark County Sheriff Terry Oestreich and a veterinarian, Dr. Kim Brummond arrived at the ranch after the anonymous call was made. “We have a problem,” Sheriff Oestreich told him.

The veterinarian then announced, “We are taking the mare and foal that are back at the house. There is no discussion. That’s what’s going to happen.” According to the article, the rancher asked, “Why?” She replied, “So they don’t die.”

According to information obtained from representatives with Protect the Harvest, Dassinger and the sheriff’s department have been crossways in the past when Dassinger, in his role as a social worker, recommended that a prisoner be placed on suicide watch. The sheriff’s department allegedly did not heed the recommendation of the social worker, and the prisoner committed suicide.

The anonymous complaint from an out-of-state source followed a period where Dassinger was recovering from hip surgery and hired a ranch hand to care for his animals, according to an article posted on Protect the Harvest.

Protect the Harvest has also challenged the doctor’s credibility, noting a defamation lawsuit that landed a $260,000 judgment against the veterinarian. The North Dakota Supreme Court upheld the judgment in a 2004 ruling.

Dassinger said the sheriff never served a warrant or any other papers authorizing the seizure, but he seized the mare and the foal.

Breitbart Texas asked Sheriff Oestreich why there was no warrant. The sheriff said he did not need a warrant because there were three “thin” horses which were visible from the roadway. The sheriff also said that once he drove onto the ranch, other “thin” horses were visible in plain view.

On May 17, North Dakota State Representative Luke Simons, who also served as a Stark County Sheriff’s Department volunteer deputy, visited the ranch after news of the seizure spread. He interviewed Dassinger and took a tour, and it including filming the livestock. Representative Simons posted the video of the interview and the stock on his Facebook page.

“I went there with an open mind, thinking there was a good chance that animals were neglected,” Simons wrote. “However, I have seen and have had neglected animals that we have rescued. It takes months and months for animals to look like this if they were so bad they could not be moved. This video was taken three weeks after that accusation was made.”

Sheriff Oestreich later contacted Rep. Simons and reportedly told him his services with the department were no longer needed.

Following the ranch tour, Rep. Simons’ wife Aliesha Simons set up a GoFundMe page to help the Dassinger’s with their legal expenses.

At issue in the case is the 2013 law passed by the legislature. Protect the Harvest reported some key provisions of the bill which include:

  • 36-21.2-01. Neglect–Definition–Exemptions—Penalty 1. Any person that willfully engages in animal neglect is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.
  • 36-21.2-02. Animal abuse–Definition–Exemptions—Penalty 1. Any person that willfully engages in animal abuse is guilty of a class A misdemeanor for a first or a second offense and a class C felony for a third or subsequent offense occurring within ten years.
  • 36-21.2-03. Animal cruelty–Definition–Exemptions—Penalty 1. Any person that intentionally engages in animal cruelty is guilty of a class C felony.
  • 36-21.2-10. Veterinarian — If upon examining an animal a licensed veterinarian determines that there is reasonable cause to believe an animal has been neglected, abused, treated cruelly, or subjected to any act or omission in violation of this chapter, the veterinarian may retain custody of the animal and shall immediately notify law enforcement officials regarding the determination.  Note: Shall means must.  Therefore, by law the veterinarian must immediately notify law enforcement.
  • 36-21.2-05. Seizure of animal–Court order 1. A law enforcement officer may petition the court for an order directing the seizure of any animal believed to have been neglected, abused, treated cruelly, or subjected to any act or omission in violation of this chapter. 2. The court may act without notice to the animal’s owner or to the person having custody or control of the animal and may rely solely on testimony or an affidavit in considering the petition. 3. In the order for seizure, the court may direct that a veterinarian humanely destroy an animal if the veterinarian, upon examining the animal, determines that the animal is experiencing excruciating pain or suffering and that the animal’s pain or suffering is not likely to be alleviated using reasonable medical interventions.
  • 36-21.1-14 Assumption of custody – Immunity from liability. Any sheriff, police officer, licensed veterinarian, investigator, or person who has custody of an animal under this chapter and who is acting in an official or professional capacity and making a good-faith effort to comply with this chapter is immune from any civil or criminal liability for acts taken or omitted while attempting to comply with this chapter.

During a recent court hearing, veterinarian Dr. Chance Noyce provided information to the court about the condition of Dassinger’s animals prior to their seizure. Dr. Noyce stated he felt the cattle and horses he observed on April 25 had “normal body conditions.” He recommended treatments for some lice and new feeding procedures. He also provided necessary vaccinations for the yearlings and a two-year-old colt, according to a court document attached below.

The judge stated there was evidence that several of Dassinger’s animals had been neglected but said the petition to seize the animals and subsequent petition to dispose of a seized animal came at a time “when the situation had been corrected to the point that seizure and disposition were no longer appropriate.”

The judge ordered the animals to be returned to Dassinger’s care.

More information on this case can be found at According to its mission statement:

Your rights and ability to feed your family are under attack.

Most Americans are completely unaware.

Extreme special interests in America have evolved into a wealthy and successful attack industry determined to control our farmers, eliminate hunting, outlaw animal exhibitions (like rodeos and circuses), and restrict animal ownership.

The result is an America that is less free and less prosperous, with reduced access to affordable food. Protect The Harvest was created to defend and preserve the freedoms of American consumers, farmers, ranchers, outdoor enthusiasts, and animal owners.


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