Saturday, May 27, 2017

North Dakota: One judge says take the animals. Second judge, Rhonda Ehlis, butts her nose in and says give them back. Horses, cattle returned to Gladstone rancher accused of animal cruelty

NORTH DAKOTA -- Seventy horses and 20 cattle were returned, at least temporarily, Thursday to a Gladstone rancher accused of abusing and neglecting them.

The Stark County State's Attorney's Office sued Gary Dassinger last month after a local veterinarian found some of Dassinger's animals were lice-ridden, dehydrated, starving and suffering from parasites. Two horses were severely crippled and put down.

A judge in Dickinson ordered a seizure of the animals. However, on Thursday, another Dickinson judge - Southwest District Judge Rhonda Ehlis - reversed that order, issuing an injunction for the animals return to Dassinger and granting a temporary restraining order against the state.

“Thank the Lord, (my) prayer’s been answered," Dassinger said.

Officials with the Stark County Sheriff's Office started taking the animals Thursday morning, but, before they were done, they had an order to return them, according to Dassinger.

"I couldn’t stand watching them (take the animals),” he said, tearfully.


Dassinger contends he hired the "wrong ranch hand" last year, and that the animals were thin, but he did not think they were emaciated. Dassinger also said he suffers some hip and spinal conditions that make it difficult for him to care for the animals.

He hired an attorney, Thomas Murtha, who filed for a temporary restraining order against the state on Thursday and requested that the state not take the animals. Southwest District Judge Rhonda Ehlis granted the temporary restraining order. The sheriff's office did have the option to contract with someone to care for the animals on Dassinger's ranch.

Ehlis could not be reached for comment on Friday. A phone call and email were not returned by Stark County State's Attorney Tom Henning.

Dassinger has been charged with four counts of animal cruelty, Class C felonies, and six counts of animal neglect. His initial appearance is scheduled for June 7.

Dassinger said he's not surprised by the charges, because he knew they were coming.

"It’s a bunch of bull crap," said Dassinger, adding that he intends to fight the charges with his attorney.

(Bismarck Tribune - May 26, 2017)