Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Stark County animal seizure worries agriculture officials

While a district court judge decides whether a Gladstone, N.D., man gets to keep his cattle and horses, agriculture groups want to make sure his due process rights — and those of other livestock producers in the future — are protected. Gerald "Gary" Dassinger of Gladstone, N.D., is accused of abusing or neglecting his horses and cattle and faces several felony and misdemeanor charges related to the accusations. Dassinger says he plans to plead not guilty to the charges. He also says he has veterinarians willing to back him up in court that his animals were not abused or neglected. The Stark County Sheriff's Department in May filed petitions to seize horses and cattle from Dassinger after local veterinarians said the animals were thin and had problems with parasites and lice. Some of the animals already were on trucks when Dassinger's attorney, Thomas Murtha, filed for a temporary restraining order to stop them from being seized before Dassinger could defend himself. Southwest District Judge Rhonda Ehlis granted the restraining order and will decide whether Dassinger can keep the animals. Ehlis on June 5 presided over the first part of a hearing in the seizure case at the Stark County Courthouse. A continuation of the hearing is scheduled to begin June 13. The hearing, the judge explained, was not required by state law. In North Dakota, law enforcement can petition the court for an order to seize animals and to dispose of the animals. Ehlis said she and attorneys in the case agreed to hold a hearing in order to preserve Dassinger's due process rights. Warren Zenker, president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, says his group sent a letter expressing concern about whether Dassinger had been able to stand up for himself before his property was seized. "That was a concern to us," he says. It's the lack of a guilty finding that concerns North Dakota Farm Bureau President Daryl Lies. Dassinger's animals were to set be seized before he even had been charged with a crime, Lies pointed out. And if his animals are taken and sold or otherwise disposed of and he's later found not guilty of a crime, Lies questions whether the law did what it was supposed to do. "There's very little recourse" for livestock producers, he says. "I've been breeding these horse for 40 years, and I have a really good herd of horses," Dassinger says. "And it's like, my 40 years is just going to be gone."...more

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