MONTANA -- A Bozeman arena owner has asked a judge to dismiss the animal cruelty charges against him, citing numerous reasons including lack of probable cause and unconstitutional statutes.
Defense attorneys for Dayle Kountz, owner of Kountz Arena on Stucky Road, filed numerous motions in Gallatin County District Court this week seeking to dismiss the case accusing Kountz of abusing his stallion Young Doc Bar and a calf.
Defense attorney Al Avignone called the prosecution’s case problematic. Law enforcement had closed the case against Kountz, but prosecutors proceeded to charge Kountz two months later, Avignone said.
And, Avignone argued, the prosecution is based on incomplete and inaccurate information and a “defamatory social media campaign that displays great ignorance and mischaracterizations of the true circumstances surrounding (Young Doc Bar) and the calf.”
“The last thing Dayle Kountz would do is to mistreat, neglect or ‘torture’ (Young Doc Bar) or the calf,” Avignone wrote in his motion.
Kountz is facing felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty and cruelty to animals, a second offense.
He is also charged with an alternative felony to the aggravated animal cruelty charge, but he can only be convicted of two total counts.
A five-day trial is scheduled for April.
The Gallatin County Attorney’s Office filed the charges against Kountz in May. He pleaded not guilty in June.
Prosecutors allege that Kountz tortured Young Doc Bar by withholding veterinary care following a serious laceration to the horse’s leg, which resulted in the horse slowly losing his hoof and a portion of his lower leg. The horse also suffered from bed sores and weight loss and was unable to stand for periods of time, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors also accuse Kountz of failing to provide care to his seriously ill calf.
The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the Kountz Arena on March 28 to investigate animal cruelty allegations.
A veterinarian who examined Young Doc Bar and the calf recommended that they be euthanized. A deputy later instructed Kountz to put down the animals, which he did, court documents say.
A number of witnesses who were at the Kountz Arena for a horse show came forward and provided photographs and information to the sheriff’s office for further investigation.
According to Kountz’s motions, he had owned Young Doc Bar, or Tommy as Kountz called him, for 20 years.
“Tommy was like family to the Kountz family,” Avignone wrote.
The horse was injured in December when he accidentally got his leg caught in a corral panel. Kountz immediately sought medical advice, the motion said, and followed treatment recommended by a vet.
Kountz and his family then treated the horse themselves with antibiotics, pain medication, wound dressing, soaking and wrapping the injured leg.
The horse “was continuing to enjoy his life and provide companionship albeit with an injured leg,” Avignone wrote.
“Tommy was a special horse — tough and smart and very much still interested in continuing to live,” Avignone wrote. “Mr. Kountz knew Tommy very well and if Tommy was in pain or had given up on wanting to live, Mr. Kountz would have put him down.”
Kountz went on to say that he had spent a lot of money keeping the horse alive and wanted to get some semen out of him.
The calf “appeared to be a little poor looking,” the motion said, so Kountz put it in the barn for extra care and monitoring. Kountz had to go out of town, but when he left the morning of March 28, the calf was sitting upright and alive, the defense said.
And both the horse and the calf had clean stalls and food and water, the motion said.
Avignone argued that the charges should be dismissed for numerous reasons.
The state violated Kountz’s right to due process by ordering that he euthanize the two animals.
“Mr. Kountz had no choice and complied with the deputy’s directive,” Avignone wrote.
But because of that, Kountz was not able to consult with an independent veterinarian and have the animals examined and tested to offer up evidence that might counter prosecutor’s claims.
“The animals are now gone because of the state. The state’s conduct requires dismissal,” Avignone wrote.
Avignone also argues that the state does not have probable cause to charge Kountz, that state law doesn’t define “torture,” and that Kountz’s previous misdemeanor charge is 15 years old and not “constitutionally firm,” all meaning the charges should be dropped.
The Gallatin County Attorney’s Office has not responded to the defense’s motions.
(The Bozeman Daily Chronicle - Oct 31, 201