Gladstone rancher gets probation in animal neglect case
UPDATE: Gladstone rancher Gary Dassinger will not go to jail after pleading guilty to six counts of animal neglect in February. The case against him started more than a year ago, when police tried to seize his animals. An injunction stopped it, but raised a larger debate about whether seizing animals is constitutional.
Dassinger won't serve a day in jail because of his plea deal, but he says it shouldn’t have come to that.
"Facts were not looked at, questions were not asked and I had to plead guilty because I ran out of money,” said Dassinger.
Stark County sheriffs went to Dassinger's ranch in April 2017 with two veterinarians to check on Dassinger's horses. Those vets recommended seizing the animals in place because moving the animals could have killed them. A month passed and the horses improved according to multiple vet reports, but Stark County Sheriff Terry Oestreich says his hands were tied, and moved in to take the animals May 25, 2017.
"If we decide to ignore that court order, we can be held in contempt and other law enforcement will be brought in to enforce the order. So we really had no choice in the matter,” said Oestreich.
An injunction later that same day would keep the horses at Dassinger's ranch. He wouldn't appear in court until June 5, 11 days after the seizure in a hearing not required by law, but agreed to by both the state and Dassinger. It wasn't until July 10 a judge denied the seizure order.
Oestreich wants the law changed to mirror child abuse proceedings; where the animals would be taken from the owner immediately and a hearing to determine custody within days.
"That way, there would be a guarantee that right away someone has their day in court,” said Oestreich.
Making a change would mean a new bill in the next session. Assistant State's Attorney Amanda Engelstad says she believes the spirit of the law is correct, but there's room for improvement in the language. She agreed making the seizure hearing mandatory and quick appearances could improve the law.
ORIGINAL STORY: Gladstone rancher Gary Dassinger won't be going to jail after pleading guilty to six counts of animal neglect in February.
Dassinger was sentenced to two years differed sentence and two years of supervised probation.
He will get to keep his animals and will not be limited to a specific number.
You know I'm still alive and I'm still here but it's terrific that I'm able to keep them and the horses are doing great and the colts are growing big," said Dassinger.
One of the issues in the case was the seizure process. Police tried to seize his animals on May 25, 2017, but an injunction allowed Dassinger to keep his animals.
Assistant State's Attorney Amanda Engelstad says she believes the spirit of the law is correct, but there's always room for improvement in the wording.
She added she'd like to see a more expedited process to address the seizure of animals going forward. Engelstad says a legislative fix would be best.